STANNIC FLEET MANAGEMENT RALLY FINAL 15/8/98 1ST WIN FOR SASOL FORD ESCORT CREW Sasol Ford Escort crew Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden rode their luck and came good at just the right time to score their first win of the season on the...
STANNIC FLEET MANAGEMENT RALLY
1ST WIN FOR SASOL FORD ESCORT CREW
Sasol Ford Escort crew Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden rode their luck and came good at just the right time to score their first win of the season on the Stannic Fleet Management Rally which ended in Johannesburg today.
Round six of the Stannic National Rally Championship also saw a radical change at the top of the drivers and co-drivers championships. Second place behind Piazza-Musso and Hadden saw reigning champions Jan Habig and Douglas Judd, in the factory VW Golf, edge clear of six time champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede in the Castrol Toyota Conquest.
Only one point separated the two crews at the start of an event that ended in heartbreak for Damseaux and Bonafede. The pair were in the lead albeit by only four seconds when they hit a cow in special stage 14 and were forced to retire two stages later.
Piazza-Musso and Hadden finished one minute and 44 seconds ahead of Habig and Judd with Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson, who were having their first outing of the season in the new factory Daewoo Lanos, in third place. On the debit side for the Daewoo team was the early demise of 11 times South African champion Sarel van der Merwe and Martin Botha who went out on special stage three on day one.
Kuun and Hodgson led overnight from Piazza-Musso and Hadden who benefited from the cancellation overnight of special stage four. The Sasol Ford Escort crew never posted a time for the special stage, and had this section of the rally been scored would have picked up a hefty penalty.
Piazza-Musso and Hadden also profited from disasters that hit Damseaux/Bonafede and other crews. Kuun and Hodgson were quickly in trouble when they broke a sideshaft on special stage nine and dropped down to fourth.
Next to suffer were Habig and Judd who lost more than a minute in special stage 12 when the VW Golf's engine mysteriously cut out. At this stage of proceedings Damseaux and Bonafede had gradually caught Piazza-Musso and Hadden and were clinging to a four second lead.
In fairness to Piazza-Musso and Hadden they were posting highly competitive times - but when Damseaux and Bonafede had their confrontation with the cow, the Sasol Ford crew were almost home and dry. With a lead of more than two minutes with just two special stages to run, only bad luck or a silly mistake could rob the pair of victory.
Also hard hit in the bad luck stakes were Class A7 championship leaders Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding in the GNT Technologies VW Golf. They broke sideshafts in successive special stages and from a solid fifth place were suddenly down in the 20s.
Van der Walt and Harding started the event in third place in the championship, and were looking for their sixth Class A7 win on the trot. Their misfortunes and the disappearance of Damseaux and Bonafede, lifted Class A6 championship leaders Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz, in the Dunair Toyota Conquest, into fourth place.
The steady East Rand husband and wife team of Ben and Isebel van der Westhuizen moved into fifth in a VW Golf running in Class S20, with Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Pierre Arries also going along steadily in sixth place. Behind them former South African rally champion Hannes Grobler and Dave McGregor (Bridgestone Nissan Sentra) were in firm control of the Group N category for standard cars.
Grobler and McGregor were more than two minutes clear of a terrific battle between Class A6 crews Craig Trott and Brian Duncan (Team Total Toyota Conquest), and Eastern Cape pair Dolf Coetzee and Eddie van der Walt in another Toyota. The top 10 was completed by Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen, in the Team Total Nissan Sentra, who edged out Class N2 leaders Schalk Burger and Thilo von Westernhagen, in a the Godrich Toyota Conquest, who were also steadiness personified.
Apart from overall victory Piazza-Musso and Hadden took Class A6 with John Brewin and Terry Porter, 16th overall in an Opel Kadett, taking an unexpected win in Class A7. Fekken and Lewkowicz took Class A6 ahead of Damseaux/Arries with Coetzee and van der Walt finally winning the battle with Trott and Duncan by a slender four seconds.
Grobler and McGregor cruised to their fourth Group N category and Class N3 win of the season, and were a cut above the rest of the standard car opposition. Veteran Burger and von Westernhagen took Class N2 with Rodney Visagie and Chris Olsen taking Class N1 after the late demise of Wiley Harrington and Neil Fourie who went out two stages from home with their Nissan Sentra blowing a motor.
Unofficial scoring when the dust had settled and there was plenty of that in the Delmas and Springs area Habig and Judd had turned a one point deficit into a 26 point advantage over Damseaux and Bonafede in the championship. With just two events left this season, Habig and Judd are sitting pretty and Damseaux and Bonafede have plenty of work to do in the catch up game.