by Colin Windell The score now stands at 10 starts and 10 wins for Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede, their latest coming on the NGK Spark Plug Rally in the Western Cape - this also their seventh for the year and one away from becoming the ...
by Colin Windell
The score now stands at 10 starts and 10 wins for Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede, their latest coming on the NGK Spark Plug Rally in the Western Cape - this also their seventh for the year and one away from becoming the first ever crew to win every national round in a season.
However, despite the score line which shows they brought their Castrol Toyota Conquest to the finish at Killarney 22 seconds ahead of Hannes Grobler/Pierre Arries in the Bankfin Nissan Sentra, it was not as clear cut as that!
The rally started in Bellville with the first of four stages for leg one but sans the StanBrik Volkswagen Golf of Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd, the Golf engine having blown on the dyno earlier in the week.
Damseaux was first away through the shopping centre stage and managed to clip the kerb fairly early in the stage to start a slow puncture. Towards the end of the stage this affected the handling enough for him to bash a bank - no serious damage recorded but enough to allow Grobler into an early lead.
Damseaux then took five seconds back on the second stage at Wingfield where Grobler had a spin.
The final stage of the first leg brought crews to Killarney for a dust up on the access roads and the track - the large crowd equalling or bettering those that turn up for race meetings.
Grobler was flying and he took seven seconds from Damseaux to finish the day overall leader by four seconds with Damseaux in second place a minute and five seconds ahead of Dabner.
However, some interesting battles were beginning to develop with the Tjaart Van der Walt/Cindi Harding Class B Golf beginning to put pressure on the Enzo Kuun/Johan Sieling Hyundai Accent while themselves being hounded from behind by Etienne Lourens' Class C Toyota Conquest who was moving pretty swiftly despite battling with fuel pressure problems.
The Cape's fickle weather patterns saw gloriously sunny and warm conditions turn to mist, drizzle and mud for the morning restart, the day's stages heading up the West coast to Malmsbury and Morreesburg.
Damseaux started the day very positively, winning the first stage of the morning by 17 seconds to move back into the overall lead on the event.
Dabner's then crashed heavily into a gate post made from a piece of railway track, completely demolishing the front end of the car.
For Grobler the stages were a pleasure and he claimed back 12 seconds from Damseaux with Enzo Kuun in the Hyundai now moving up into third place overall as Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding were forced to retire with clutch problems on their Golf and Nuno da Cunha/Thilo von Westernhagen were forced out with a blown head gasket on the Nissan in the last stage before lunch.
Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley continued to dominate Class C in fourth spot overall with Trevor Graham and Peter Chadwick fifth overall and holding off the Class B leaders Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden in the Fiat Uno Turbo. Barry Grobbelaar and Chequered Flag scribe Francois Pretorius were keeping out of trouble and leading the Class D battle.
The battle between Damseaux and Grobler continued unabated to the lunch stop with each driver scoring another two stage wins to finish the morning with Damseaux and Bonafede leading the event by 17 seconds.
On the run back to Killarney for the finish Damseaux won four of the six stages to complete the event 22 seconds ahead of Grobler - the Nissan driver never giving up the chase.
A mistake on the 'round-the-houses' in Malmsbury cost him 10 seconds but Grobler then returned with scintillating vengeance on the Klipkoppies hillclimb, taking 13 seconds off Damseaux - but just not enough to prevent the Toyota driver from notching up his tenth straight rally victory.
Very much on their own in third place, Enzo Kuun and Johan Sieling pedalled the Hyundai Accent along to give the team a place on the podium.
"We will be running a completely new six-speed close-ratio gearbox for the next event which, hopefully, will make the car more competitive and better able to maximise the power it is producing," said Enzo Kuun. "The car is still in its first season of development and there are a number of things we are considering."
With this victory Damseaux now equals the record set by Sarel van der Merwe of seven wins in a season although he did admit to being a bit relieved at the end.
South African Rally Championship, Round 7
1. Serge Damseaux/Vito Bonafede (Toyota Conquest), 02h02m36s; 2. Hannes Grobler/Pierre Arries (Nissan Sentra), 02h02m58s; 3. Enzo Kuun/Johan Sieling (Hyundai Accent), 02h13m14s; 4. Etienne Lourens/Robert Paisley (Toyota Conquest Class C), 02h16m26s; 5. Trevor Graham/Peter Chadwick (Toyota Conquest), 02h19m06s; 6. Paolo Piazza-Musso/Nic Hadden (Fiat Uno Turbo Class B), 02h20m26s; 7. Keith Coleman/Uwe Koch (Volkswagen Golf), 02h22m40s; 8. Barry Grobbelaar/Francois Pretorius (Volkswagen Golf Class D), 02h26m23s, 9. Brian Martin/Barry White (Toyota Conquest), 02h26m37s; 10. Blassie Franken/Tony Bosman (Nissan Skyline), 02h26m45s.
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