Sardinian Success for Rautenbach On a weekend where tyre wear would be the primary concern for all the competitors in the JWRC young Zimbabwean rally ace, Conrad Rautenbach, showed his experience of having competed in some of the toughest...
Sardinian Success for Rautenbach
On a weekend where tyre wear would be the primary concern for all the competitors in the JWRC young Zimbabwean rally ace, Conrad Rautenbach, showed his experience of having competed in some of the toughest rallies in Africa had paid dividends by nutering his Renault Clio home to finish a sensational 2nd overall!
With the FIA ruling that only 20 tyres could be allocated to each competitor for Sardinia and Conrad having had prior experience of this event his plan was a conservative one. Despite this tyre wear was still great and Conrad struggled with 3 punctures in 1 stage on Friday, which cost him over 1 and a half minutes. He then had to drive the 70 km back to service on the rim as yet another tyre wore away to the canvas!
Despite this time lost Conrads consistency saw him end day 1 in 3rd position. The Geoff Jones Motorsport team also had minor concerns when the car had struggled with overheating problems but a few modifications at Fridays final service would see these issues addressed.
Saturday was more of the same as the Junior World Rally championship contenders struggled through the ruts left by the more powerful WRC machinery that ran ahead of them. At one stage on Saturday a plague of punctures briefly dropped Conrad to 4th as Umo Aava set a fast time to overhaul him. However 2 stages later Aava had his own run of bad luck, whilst Conrad set the 4th quickest time to move himself back into 3rd overall.
With just 6 stages of the tough and gruelling event on the Sunday left, Conrad was happy with his strategy thus far and barring mechanical maladies the podium was theirs for the taking. Despite 2 more punctures throughout the day, where tyres were wearing down to the canvas Conrad was looking comfortable for the final podium position.
And then, on Stage 15 the rally leader Guy Wilks lost a lot of time with mechanical problems and dropped to second position. On the very next stage Wilks' Suzuki ground to a halt and when Conrad past the stricken car he knew they now lay 2nd overall. However they had problems of their own. A cracked radiator was of major concern to the pair as the engine temperature sky rocketed. Throughout the final 3 stages Conrad drove with 1 eye on the temperature gauge and the pair had to halt on the road sections to cool the thirsty engine.
Once through the final stage, Conrad and David Senior, his co-driver, still had to make it back to the finish of the event. They eventually arrived at the final time control to breathe a sigh of relief, only to have the engine refuse to start when it was time to climb the finish ramp, resulting in the pair having to push the Renault onto the ramp, where they were greeted with raucous applause from the Italian spectators! Never have 8 points been so well earned!
Sardinia is a really tough rally and we always knew that tyres would be the key to the event. We agreed on our tactics before the start and I'm very, very happy with our result. I'm absolutely exhausted now and need a sleep!
This result has elevated Conrad to 4th in the JWRC standings and he is a mere 9 points off the championship leader at the half way point in the championship.
Next up for Conrad is the Acropolis Rally, which he will contest in his Subaru Impreza N12 in order to gauge himself against the competitors in the PWRC and to gain more gravel mileage in the new car. The Acropolis Rally begins on Friday June 2nd.