Stannic National Rally Natal Preview

Durban motorsport enthusiasts won't lack for action when this year's Stannic Rally Championship gets underway in KwaZulu-Natal on March 12 and 13. The Stannic Tour Natal has taken over the mantle of serving as the traditional pipeopener to the...

Durban motorsport enthusiasts won't lack for action when this year's Stannic Rally Championship gets underway in KwaZulu-Natal on March 12 and 13.

The Stannic Tour Natal has taken over the mantle of serving as the traditional pipeopener to the season, with this year's event starting in Pietermaritzburg and finishing at Umhlanga Rocks. With two day one spectator special stages at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg within easy access of Durban, there is also the added bonus of two spectator stages at Umhlanga on the opening and closing days of the event.

For anyone wanting to catch the start of the event the first car away at the 2,5 kilometre Alexandra Park special stage will come under starters orders at 12h37. Anyone unable to get away from the office for the lunchtime start, will be able to take in a second Alexandra Park stage - this time 5,5 kilometres in length - at 18h00 on the Friday.

For those who cannot make the short trip up the highway to Pietermaritzburg, a one kilometre special stage at Umhlanga Rocks will bring down the curtain on the first day. The first car is scheduled to start the Umhlanga stage at 20h00.

The event will restart at the popular holiday resort at 07h00 on March 13 with sugarcane and forest stages on the South Coast within easy driving distance of Durban. A central service point at Equeefa will be a focal point of the rally, and will allow easy access to and from surrounding special stages.

The final special stage of the Stannic Tour Natal will be back at Umhlanga Rocks. The spectator stage will again be a one kilometre affair through the streets of Umhlanga with the first car scheduled to start at 17h00.

The Stannic Tour Natal will be a spectator friendly event with spectator route guides available at the start and from Standard Bank offices in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

A service park at Equeefa, near Umzinto on the Natal South Coast, will be a focal point on the second day of the Stannic Tour Natal on March 12 and 13 - and is certain to provide for a festival atmosphere.

The Equeefa service area will operate from special stage eight at the start of day two on March 13 through to the end of special stage 14. With only three special stages - one of them the event finale at Umhlanga Rocks - to be run after stage 14 the Equeefa service park will be a hive of activity throughout a busy day.

With a constant flow of rally cars heading for or returning from special stages in close proximity to the service park, there will be no shortage of opportunity for spectators to take a close look at cars and meet crews. Equeefa also offers easy access to spectator points at surrounding special stages which on day two will be made up of Sappi forest and Illovo sugarcane roads.

The famous Equeefa watersplash special stage will provide for additional entertainment with catering and refreshments on sale at what will be a popular point for the entire family.

A media and information service will also operate from the service park with spectator guides available to members of the public.

Innovation, starting with the Stannic Tour Natal in KwaZulu-Natal from March 12 to 13, will again play a major role in this year's Stannic Rally Championship.

A number of special stages on the Stannic Tour Natal, the opening event on this year's national championship calendar, will be run with an inverted start order. Cars in lower classes will start ahead of entrants in higher classes on these special stages, with three special stages earmarked for an inverted start on the season's pipeopener.

Rally Management CC, which owns the rights to South African rallying, sees the inverted start order as a means of generating additional spectator interest at selected special stages on Stannic Rally Championship events throughout the season. The practice is widespread in FIA World Rally Championship events, and RMCC is convinced the concept will prove popular in South Africa.

"All we have done is take a leaf out of the Rally Australia book," said RMCC operations manager Charmaine Fortune. "The inverted start system is also used on other world championship events, and has been highly successful in providing an exciting build up to seeing the leading cars in action.

"In some cases the entire field will run on the inverted system, and in others only the top 10 or 20 cars will be inverted with the remaining cars maintaining their normal start order."

Ms Fortune said that apart from providing spectators with an exciting build up to seeing the top stars in action, the inverted start system provided rally fans with longer periods of entertainment at demarcated spectator special stages. The system also provided competitors in lower classes with valuable additional exposure in front of maximum audiences."

Stannic Tour Natal route director Jimmy Dewar said two special stages on day one of the KwaZulu-Natal event, and one special stage on the final day would run under the inverted start system. On day one the second Alexandra Park special stage in Pietermaritzburg, and the final special stage at Umhlanga Rocks would run with the first 10 cars starting in inverted order.

"The final special stage, also at Umhlanga Rocks, will also run with an inverted start," Dewar said. "On this occasion, however, there will be a parc ferme before the start of the stage and the entire field will be inverted.

"On the first day there will be a holding area prior to the start of the Alexandra Park and Umhlanga stages."

Ms Fortune said Rally Management CC and Stannic Rally Championship organisers throughout the country would continue to introduce new innovations throughout the season. "We do not want to tamper with the sport's traditional values," she said, "but innovation is part of our strategy of bringing rallying to the people.

"At the same time we need to attract more rally converts, and to do this we have to make rallying more exciting for a wider audience than has been catered for in the past. We feel that fresh ideas introduced into the sport over the last two seasons have played a significant role in rallying's recent renaissance, and we will continue to look at new concepts to keep the ball rolling."

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