MOUNTAIN TRIAL A CHALLENGE FOR CREWS With the Mountain Trial in the Free State and Eastern Cape back on the Stannic National Rally calendar in August - albeit on a one off basis - crews will renew acquaintance with one of the most fearsome ...
MOUNTAIN TRIAL A CHALLENGE FOR CREWS
With the Mountain Trial in the Free State and Eastern Cape back on the Stannic National Rally calendar in August - albeit on a one off basis - crews will renew acquaintance with one of the most fearsome special stages in the history of special stage rallying in South Africa.
Along with the Tee Road, on the outskirts of Mbabane, on Castrol Rallies of days gone by there is perhaps no other special stage in South African rallying that enjoys the same sort of notoriety as Joubert's Pass between Lady Grey and Elliott. Between them the Tee Road and Joubert's Pass have left many a crew, and co-drivers in particular, in a state of shock.
The Mountain Trial was first run in 1982 and some breathtaking scenery in the Aliwal North, Lady Grey, Barkley East, Rhodes and Maclear areas is also home to wide and well maintained gravel mountain pass roads. It is these roads, with the Mountain Trial run on public thoroughfares, that earned the event a fearsome reputation as an awesomely fast rally that tested the courage of crews.
The Mountain Trial was also the first South African championship rally where crews were allowed to practice over the route. This was probably for safety reasons, but in previous years at least one prominent navigator (no names no packdrill) is known to have had to quickly eat a set of illegal pace notes when rally officials carried out a quick spot check.
In the 15 years that the Mountain Trial was part of the national championship, it produced only five winners among drivers and six among co-drivers. Seven time South African champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede lead the roll of honour with five wins, including four in a row between 1993 and 1996.
On the drivers side Damseaux is followed by former champions Geoff Mortimer (4), Sarel van der Merwe (3), and Hannes Grobler (2) with Johan Evertse the only single winner of the event among drivers. On the co-drivers front Bonafede, now retired, is followed by Franz Boshoff (4), Spotti Woodhead and Piet Swanepoel (2) with Stuart Pegg and Peter Cuffley each scoring one win apiece.
Mortimer, who won the inaugural event in 1982 and scored three wins in a row between 1985 and 1987, was accompanied by three different co-drivers. He won twice with Woodhead and once each with Pegg and Boshoff.
The five wins scored by Damseaux and Bonafede also sees Toyota share the most number of wins with Audi. Ford and Nissan each scored two wins with Volkswagen's lone victory coming via Johan Evertse and Peter Cuffley in a VW Syncro in 1992.
On the organisational front the Mountain Trial, organised by the Bloemfontein branch of the Sports Car Club, is home from home for Fred Vroomen. Club stalwart Vroomen was deputy clerk of the course on the first event in 1982, and clerk of the course for every subsequent event between 1983 and 1996.
Vroomen will be back in the saddle in August on an event that will recall some halcyon days in South African rallying history. This year's Mountain Trial, however, will be viewed with some trepidation - both by crews who have previous experience and by those who have yet to make acquaintance with Joubert's Pass.
The full Mountain Trial roll of honour is:
1982 G Mortimer/B Woodhead (Ford Escort); 1983 S van der Merwe/F Boshoff (Audi Quattro); 1984 H Grobler/P Swanepoel (Nissan Langley); 1985 G Mortimer/S Pegg (Audi Quattro); 1986 G Mortimer/B Woodhead (Audi Quattro); 1987 G Mortimer/F Boshoff (Audi Quattro); 1988 S van der Merwe/F Boshoff (Audi Quattro); 1989 S Damseaux/V Bonafede (Toyota Conquest); 1990 H Grobler/P Swanepoel (Nissan Sentra); 1991 S van der Merwe/F Boshoff (Ford Laser); 1992 J Evertse/P Cuffley (VW Syncro); 1993 S Damseaux/V Bonafede (Toyota Conquest); 1994 S Damseaux/V Bonafede (Toyota Conquest); 1995 S Damseaux/V Bonafede (Toyota Conquest); 1996 S Damseaux/V Bonafede (Toyota Conquest).