Merging two rallies into one in Secunda

Rally drivers are a breed on their own. They have to be absolute fearless, skilled and totally trusting the navigator’s instructions.

The Billy Te Water Memorial rally was held in Secunda over the weekend of May 26 and 27. A double win for JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit gave them a solid start to the national championships.

It was no easy task though as the top three competitors over both days were separated by mere seconds. The average speed for the event was recorded as 126km/h. Now, just as a point of reference – World Rally Championships cars are restricted to 130km/h.

This event constituted the first two rounds of the SA National Championship with each day’s rallying a separate event – with day two including the Regional Championship runners.

Rally 1 on Friday

Potgieter and Du Toit (Rally2Kit Hyundai i20) finally claimed the overall win for the day by just 0,02 seconds from reigning South African champions, Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich in the Rallytechnic Mazda 2 – this after seven special stages.

While Potgieter made the early running, it was a massive duel with Swazi Cowboy, Jono van Wyk and Nico Swartz in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Starlet, the pair trading times on the stages and, occasionally, losing time as the pressure mounted.

JJ Potgieter.

“I was so eager to get going I left the handbrake slightly engaged on stage 4,” said Potgieter. “This cost me 15 seconds before I realised the problem and I knew Jono was right on my tail. The stages are very slippery so any mistake is going to cost you dearly.”

Although he avoided mistakes, a broken anti-roll bar on stage 4 meant he had to slow down, but two stages later the pressure came off slightly when Van Wyk had oil pressure issues and had to slow right down, dropping back behind the hard-charging Coertse/Godrich pairing.

The top echelon of rallying is classified NRC1 and are all four-wheel drive cars, but this also did not deter the action from the two-wheel drive NRC2 competitors and Benjamin Habig/Barry White (Just Tools Volkswagen Polo) put in a storming drive to finish up fourth overall for the day.

Fifth place and second in the NRC2 class went to Gustav Potgieter/Carolyn Swan (Ford Fiesta) with Michael McGregor/Craig Reynecke in a Volkswagen Polo sixth overall, ahead of Jonathan Simms/Adam Tyrer who were having their first NRC1 outing.

“The car is brand new and it is a completely new learning process for me to make the change to four-wheel drive, so I’m happy with the way things are going,” said Simms.

The final classified placing for the day went to Magriet Potgieter and Rikus Fourie (Ford Fiesta) – eighth overall and fourth in NRC2.

Rally 2 – Saturday

The Saturday morning dawned with overcast skies and a hint of rain in the air which fortunately it held off.

Again, it was Pretorius/Du Toit, birthday boy Coertse and Godrich and Van Wyk/Swartz trading stage times and chasing each other as hard as they could.

“I decided to take a slightly less aggressive approach for the day and actually started to go quicker,” said Coertse, adding, “The biggest problem was when we came across donkeys and zebra on the last kilometre of the second stage. We had to slow but this affected all three of us so probably evened out in the end.”

Chris Coertse.

Potgieter never let up and despite losing 16 seconds to the wildlife, finished up the day on the top step of the podium, this time a healthier 30 seconds ahead of the Coertse/Godrich pairing with Van Wyk/Swartz having to settle for third place after a puncture on the final stage cost them time.

The actual last stage of the day was cancelled following a spectacular and massive rollover that saw the immaculate Ford Escort Mk1 of Natie Booysen and Johan Smit reduced to scrap metal on the Quarry stage.

Both emerged from the wreckage and were taken to hospital for observation and suspected broken ribs for Booysen.

The same stage saw young Benjamin Habig also overturn his car but it flipped front first and landed on the wheels, allowing him to continue and again finish top of NRC2 and fourth overall for the day behind Van Wyk/Swartz.

“There was a ‘twig’ in the road and it tripped us up,” said Habig.

Strauss and Venter.

The Subaru Impreza of Strauss/Venter finished fifth overall for the day with Potgieter/Swan still second in NRC2 and sixth overall even with a 40-second time penalty for a late check-in at a stage start.

Jonathan Simms seemed to have got to grips with four-wheel drive and he and Adam Tyrer drove the Toyota Tazz to seventh place and fifth in NRC1 ahead of McGregor/Visser.

In the Regional competition run over the same stages, Anton Raaths/Mari Ducasse (Ford Escort) won overall for the day from Braam Muller/Wouter Erasmus (Subaru Impreza) and the Simms/Tyrer pairing.

Source: NRC 





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