VOLKSWAGEN RALLY 17 JULY 1998 22:15 BULLETIN FOUR HABIG/JUDD TAKE FIRM GRIP ON VOLKSWAGEN RALLY South African champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd took a firm grip on the Volkswagen Rally, round five of the Stannic National ...
VOLKSWAGEN RALLY 17 JULY 1998 22:15
HABIG/JUDD TAKE FIRM GRIP ON VOLKSWAGEN RALLY
South African champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd took a firm grip on the Volkswagen Rally, round five of the Stannic National Rally Championship, which started in Port Elizabeth today.
At the end of day one - after six of the scheduled 14 special stages - Habig and Judd, in the works VW Golf, held a one minute 50 second lead over Sasol Ford Escort crew Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden. On a day loaded with drama Habig and Judd went a long way towards taking control of an event Volkswagen would love to win in their backyard.
The drama started as early as special stage one but it was not until special stage three in the Zuurberg that the scales tilted in favour of Habig and Judd. After two special stages Habig and Judd led six times champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede, in the Castrol Toyota Conquest, by just two seconds.
The wheels then fell off, literally, for Damseaux and Bonafede. Early in stage three, a lengthy 48 kilometre charge through the Zuurberg, the Castrol Toyota lost a wheel and Damseaux and Bonafede lost 10 minutes. That dropped the former champions down to 20th place, but their problem had a ripple effect.
Piazza-Musso and Hadden, Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz in the Dunair Toyota Conquest and Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding, in the Rieks Towing VW Golf, all caught the ailing Toyota at some point during the stage and lost valuable time. Time lost by the three crews varied from around 90 seconds to more than two minutes with van der Walt and Harding hardest hit.
They dropped from third to seventh and, ironically, it was Damseaux's son, Jean-Pierre, and co-driver Pierre Arries in the Team Total Toyota Conquest who benefited most. The younger Damseaux and Arries were seventh on the road, had a clean run and fourth fastest time on the stage rocketed them up the leaderboard and put them in a commanding lead in Class A6.
Damseaux and Arries, however, were in trouble in the final stage of the day. They set the fastest time but other crews were lining up to protest that they did not complete the full distance.
Fourth at the overnight halt were local crew Keith Coleman and Uwe Koch, in a VW Golf, who took advantage of local knowledge to steadily move up the pecking order. The pair led Class A7 but were only two seconds ahead of Class A6 championship leaders Fekken and Lewkowicz.
Van der Walt and Harding picked up a place late in the day to lie sixth overnight, with Group N leaders Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen, in the Team Total Nissan Sentra, only two seconds behind them. Blackman and Klaasen took control of the Group N category, for standard cars, and Class N3 when championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Dave McGregor (Bridgestone Nissan Sentra) retired on special stage two with a broken fuel pump.
Class N2 leaders Dean Sanders and Graham Hooper, in the Team Total Toyota Conquest, were up to ninth overall - behind team-mates Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows in the Class A7 VW Golf - with championship leaders Allan Worms and Ashley Gericke leading Class N1 in an Opel Astra. Worms and Gericke, however, were only eight seconds clear of arch rivals Rodney Vissagie and Chris Olsen in a Toyota Conquest.
With little more than 108 kilometres of special stage distance tomorrow, Piazza-Musso and Hadden will have to make up ground on Habig and Judd at the rate of more than a second a kilometre. That is hardly feasible and Habig/Judd, trailing Damseaux and Bonafede by 21 points in the championship, look good bets to close the gap to nothing - or move ahead of the Castrol Toyota crew.