Volkswagen Final Report

VOLKSWAGEN RALLY 18 JULY 1998 17:30 BULLETIN FINAL VW FACTORY CREW WIN VOLKSWAGEN RALLY After years of watching other manufacturers raid the Eastern Cape and go home with victory in their own event, Volkswagen finally got it right...




After years of watching other manufacturers raid the Eastern Cape and go home with victory in their own event, Volkswagen finally got it right this year.

Factory crew Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd got the win Volkswagen so desperately wanted when they cruised to victory in the Volkswagen Rally, round five of the Stannic National Rally Championship, which ended in Port Elizabeth today. The reigning champions, in the VW Golf, won in style with more than nine minutes to spare - and victory was achieved in front of South African Andre van der Watt, the boss of Volkswagen motorsport worldwide, who is on a brief visit back to his home town.

The cherry on top of the cake saw Volkswagen also win the manufacturers award, and supply four of the top five finishers. Second after an event that provided a constant supply of drama, were privateers Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding in the Rieks Towing VW Golf with the pair scoring their fifth Class A7 victory this year.

Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Pierre Arries, in the Team Total Toyota Conquest, spoilt the VW party a little by coming in ahead of Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows in the Team Total VW Golf, and local crew Keith Coleman and Uwe Koch in another VW Golf. The Habig/Judd win, with the pair trailing six times South African champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede by 21 points going into the Volkswagen Rally, has also thrown the national drivers and co-drivers championship wide open.

The turning point for Habig and Judd came on special stage three on day one. Damseaux and Bonafede, in the Castrol Toyota Conquest, hit a rock and lost a wheel on what was a 48 kilometre stage, and dropped10 minutes to the VW Golf crew.

That dropped Damseaux and Bonafede down to 16th with other crews, who inevitably caught the stricken Castrol Toyota in the stage, also losing time. It all provided Habig and Judd the edge they needed, and from that point all the pair had to do was keep the VW Golf on the road.

Damseaux and Bonafede, along with other crews, continued to hit the self destruct button today - with the gap between Habig and Judd and the rest of the field always increasing. Sasol Ford Escort pair Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden, second overnigth less than two minutes behind the lead VW Golf, were the first to go.

They went off the road on the second special stage of the day and were time barred. Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz, in the Dunair Toyota Conquest, soon took over second place and then the Class A6 championship leaders also went off the road - in stage 10 - and lost seven minutes with a bizarre twist to the episode.

After finally getting through the stage, Fekken and Lewkowicz were following van der Walt and Harding to the service area when they were hit by Damseaux and Bonafede. The former champions were on their way back to the end of stage 10 to query a point with marshals, and the collision between the two Toyota's left the Dunair car minus a right rear wheel with the Castrol car also suffering suspension damage.

Second place was out the window where Fekken was concerned, with a top 10 finish now a dicy prospect. Lateness penalties while the Castrol Toyota was patched up, also dropped Damseaux and Bonafede down the pecking order again - after the pair, needing every championship point they could muster, had fought hard to move into the top 10.

Damseaux and Bonafede eventually finished seventh and Fekken/Lewkowicz made it into the top 10 by the skin of their teeth. The carnage, however, left Habig and Judd unmoved but shifted van der Walt/Harding, the younger Damseaux and Arries and Grobbelaar/Burrows up the pecking order. A two minute 10 second penalty for lateness after a gearbox change was an early blow for Coleman and Koch, with the pair third overall at the overnight halt.

The early day one demise of Hannes Grobler and Dave McGregor, in the Bridgestone Nissan Sentra, left Team Total Nissan Sentra pair Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen in charge of the Group N category. They also led Class N3 and a steady and workmanlike drive carried them to sixth overall.

Another Team Total crew, Dean Sanders and Graham Hooper, in the Toyota Conquest, bounced back to form to dominate Class N2 with Richard Visagie and Chris Olsen taking Class N1 in another Toyota Conquest. Three times the bridesmaids in Class N1 this season, Visagie and Olsen finally put it over Wiley Harrington and Neil Fourie in a Nissan Sentra and championship leaders Allan Worms and Ashley Gericke in an Opel Corsa.

Unofficial scoring sees the gap between Damseaux/Bonafede and Habig and Judd narrowed to just one point, with three wins for the Toyota crew and two for the VW Golf pair. And, not yet out of the picture, are van der Walt and Harding who have been second in the drivers and co-drivers championships three times in the last five years.

With three events left to run this season, the Stannic National Rally Championship has suddenly come alive.

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