Serge Damseaux, Guy Hodgson make rally history

by Colin Windell Seven time South African rally drivers champion Serge Damseaux and Guy Hodgson today won the Total Rally of South Africa for the second year in a row - and in the process made a little South African rally history. Damseaux...

by Colin Windell

Seven time South African rally drivers champion Serge Damseaux and Guy Hodgson today won the Total Rally of South Africa for the second year in a row - and in the process made a little South African rally history.

Damseaux and Hodgson, in the Dealer Toyota Corolla, became the first crew to win a national rally championship event in a Class A6 car. Last year the pair won in the Castrol Toyota Conquest running in the premier Class A8 category but, following an off-season decision by Toyota to quit the category, Damseaux and Hodgson are this year competing in the lower class.

The Total Rally of South Africa was the third round of this year's South African National Rally Championship and round two of the FIA African Rally Championship, with a second Class A6 car finishing second. Unofficial results saw the Team Total Toyota Corolla driven by Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley, come home three minutes and 36 seconds behind Damseaux and Hodgson to give Toyota a stunning one/two result.

A third South African crew, Schalk Burger and Martin Botha, finished third overall and took maximum FIA African Rally Championship points. Burger and Botha, in a Subaru Imprezza 4x4, were one of a handful of South African crews competing in cars homologated to score points in the FIA African series.

Fourth and fifth were Namibians Richard Himmel and Adolf Botes, in a Toyota Conquest 4x4, and the Uganda/Kenya combination of Emmanuel Katto and Peter Stone in a Toyota Celica GT4 - later excluded for a technical infringement. This gave Toyota four of the five top places with Himmel/Botes and Katto/Stone two of six international entries among the original 49 starters.

The Group N category and Class N3 were won by Hannes Grobler and Brian Duncan, in the Team Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra, in what was a stunning performance. Grobler and Duncan were running as high as fifth place with just three special stages to go, but then lost four minutes via a puncture and an unsavoury stoning incident in Grabouw.

Grobler and Duncan, after their puncture, were eight kilometres into special stage 13 when a group of young spectators hurled stones at the car breaking a side window and scarring the windscreen. Behind Grobler and Duncan the Grobbelaar/Burrows car was also stoned and unconfirmed reports said two other cars suffered the same fate.

"It was the puncture that cost us most of the time, but the stoning incident was unnerving," said Grobler. "It took us a while to regain our composure."

The incidents dropped Grobler/Duncan to seventh overall, behind Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows, in the Team Total VW Golf who, because of the four FIA African Rally Championship entries ahead of them, were classified third overall in the SA championship scoring. It also meant that Grobler and Duncan just edged out Cape crew Stefan van Dyk and Mark Pym (Toyota Corolla), who won Class N2 after another sterling performance, in the Group N category.

The rally effectively ended as a contest on the second special stage after the restart today in Cape Town. Overnight leaders Jan Habig and Doug Judd, in the Sasol VW Golf 4, went out with a blown motor with the reigning champions starting the day more than three minutes ahead of Damseaux and Hodgson.

There were fears on day one in the VW camp that all was not well with the Habig/Judd car. A continuous misfire could not be cured and a broken valve finally put a halt to a winning streak that saw them win the first two events of the season.

The Habig/Judd retirement also saw them hand over the lead in this year's SA championship to Damseaux and Hodgson. Stage nine also saw the demise of Paolo Piazza Musso and Nic Hadden, third overnight in the Ford Escort, who went off the road and left themselves up the creek without a paddle.

After that it was left to Damseaux and Hodgson, with the advantage of local knowledge, to cruise home while a bit of a battle developed between Lourens/Paisley and Burger and Botha. The eventual gap was 34 seconds and both had their problems with Lourens and Paisley losing time through a puncture, while Burger and Botha ran for most of the day with the Subaru minus third gear.

A bit of a battle also developed between Himmel/Botes and Katto/Stone with the Namibians also not eligible for FIA African Rally Championship points. With the crews ahead of them starting to ease off the international pair started to pick up stage wins, but throughout the event were overshadowed by South African crews in inferior machinery.

With Habig/Judd falling by the wayside Class A8 went to Grobbelaar and Burrows after another trademark drive where steadiness is the name of the game. Class A7 went to Adrian Karth and Rikus Fourie (VW Golf) who finished 19th overall, while Damseaux/Hodgson won Class A6.

With Grobler/Duncan taking the Group N overall honours and Class N3 and van Dyk/Pym Class N2, the final SA championship category went to reigning champions Rodney Visagie and Carolyn Swan in the Team Total Toyota Tazz. They won Class N1 ahead of perennial rival Mike Houghton, partnered this time around by brother Robin, in the Toy Toy Spares Toyota Tazz.

Of the other international crews former FIA African Rally Champion Satwant Singh and Mtumbi Goma, in a Subaru Imprezza, were ninth overall. Considering, however, that the Zambians were out in the car in which Colin McRae won the world championship a year or two back, it was a disappointing performance.

Zimbabweans Hannes Cruger and Tony Rowley, in a Toyota Corolla, were 11th with Jamie Whyte and Phil Archenoul 12th in a Nissan Sentra with the pair also not eligible for FIA African Rally Championship points. Fellow Zimbabweans Abe Smit, also a former FIA African Rally Champion, and Pete Marsh were 15th overall and Class N4 winners in the Sasol VW Golf TDi while the other diesel Golf, driven by South African crew Ben and Isebel van der Westhuizen, went out with engine failure. <pre> RESULTS

Overall Results:

1 S Damseaux/G Hodgson (RSA - Dealer Team Toyota Corolla) 02:42,33; 2 E Lourens/R Paisley (RSA - Dealer Team Toyota Corolla) 02:46,09; 3 S Burger/M Botha (RSA - Subaru Imrezza 4x4) 02:46,43; 4 R Himmel/A Botes (NAM - Toyota Conquest 4x4) 02;49,56; 5 B Grobbelaar/M Burrows (RSA - Team Total VW Golf) 02:54,43; 6 H Grobler/B Duncan (RSA - Team Total Bidgestone Nissan Sentra) 02:56,48; 7 S van Dyk/M Pym (RSA - Toyota Corolla) 02:57;21; 8 S Singh/M Goma (ZAM - Subaru Imprezza) 02:57;37; 9 K Roos/N Fourie (RSA - Toyota Corolla) 03:02,12.

SA Championship Results

1 S Damseaux/G Hodgson (Dealer Team Toyota Corolla) 02:42,33; 2 E Lourens/R Paisley (Team Total Toyota Corolla) 02:46,09; 3 B Grobbelaar/M Burrows (Team Total VW Golf) 02:54,43; 4 H Grobler/B Duncan (Team Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra) 02:56,48; 5 S van Dyk/M Pym (Toyota Corolla) 02:57,21; 6 K Roos/N Fourie (SAlive Toyota Corolla) 03:0212; 7 R Behm/A Gericke (Palbin Toyota Conquest) 03:05,43; 8 C Trott/G Bezuidenhout (Team Total Toyota Conquest) 03:06,42; 9 G Mortimer/G Gericke (Sasol Nissan Sentra) 03:12,09; 10 R Visagie/C Swan (Team Total Toyota Conquest) 03:16,18.

Class A8 - B Grobbelaar/M Burrows (Sasol VW Golf); Class A7 - A Karth/R Fourie (VW Golf); Class A6 - S Damseaux/G Hodgson (Dealer Team Toyota Corolla); Class N3 - H Grobler/B Duncan (Team Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra); Class N2 - S van Dyk/M Pym (Toyota Corolla); Class N1 - R Visagie/C Swan (Team Total Toyota Tazz).

Manufacturers Award - Toyota.

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Series Other rally
Drivers Colin McRae