Ford looking the part

The eye-catching designs on race and rally cars are not random events and manufacturers go to great lengths to have unique artwork adorning their cars.

For 2020, Ford has charged graphic designer Phil Dixon with producing the artwork for the Cumbria-based M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs.

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This season his vision drew inspiration from print designs of the early-to-mid 90s and the Fiestas will carry a modern-retro theme as the team look to the future with a young and ambitious new line-up.

The 2020 colour scheme offers a largely white design with highlights of blue and green to represent the close partnership with Ford as well as increased support from Castrol – as facilitated through the Blue Oval’s global alliance. Existing partners MS-RT, Michelin, Sparco, OZ Racing, NGK, Lazer, Stilo, Acronis, Endless, Audes, Eibach and SWP are also proudly displayed within the design.

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The Cumbrians are also looking to the future closer to home and the official photos were taken in the M-Sport Evaluation Centre, which is fast taking shape and due for completion this autumn. Having constructed a 2,5-kilometre test track last year, the experts at Northern Developments are now focused on the adjoining 10,723 sqm workshop.

Progressing at pace, 550 tonnes of structural steelwork is already in place and all of the external precast concrete walls have been fully installed. Once complete, this extensive multimillion-pound development will mark a new era for M-Sport – with a truly unique centre of engineering excellence on the edge of the Lake District National Park.

Graphic Designer, Phil Dixon, says: “My initial inspiration came from François Delecour’s 1995 Ford Escort RS Cosworth. White cars have always been popular and with the increased support from Castrol that colour scheme was spot on. In general, the whole design has a nod to the early-to-mid 90s.

“The patterns and fashions of the era are really prevalent at the moment, so I was interested to create something in that style whilst still being on-trend and relevant today.”

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Team Principal, Richard Millener, added: “Phil is a real talent so it is not surprising to see his designs become fan favourites year after year. This year he has captured a sense of nostalgia in something totally modern and inventive, and I have to say that it’s one of my favourites!

“It is great to see our close relationship with Ford well represented, as well as the increased support from Castrol. Many of our existing partners are also proudly displayed, and the livery looks even better close up.”

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Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, says: “Like every rally fan, I look forward to seeing our new livery and I have to say that the team have done a fantastic job this year. Rallying is at the heart of our business, and we have built a team that I am immensely proud of. But if we want to continue it is important to diversify, and the M-Sport Evaluation Centre offers exactly that.

“Northern Developments are making great progress, and we are creating a fantastic facility where industry leaders from the motor sport and automotive sectors will have everything, they need to follow a concept from design to production. I truly believe that we have something special at M-Sport, and this new development is only going to build on that – promoting Dovenby Hall as a unique centre of engineering excellence.”

 

Killarney packs them in

Thousands of car freaks, racing fans and just plain adrenalin junkies poured into Killarney International Raceway on December 28 for the annual StreetFest in partnership with the City of Cape Town.

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It was an international celebration of car culture featuring top Drag Racers from all over South Africa and as far afield as Namibia taking on the best of Cape Town’s quarter-mile crew, as well as Drifting, an IASCA Sound-Off, a Show ‘n Shine competition that highlighted some of the prettiest and most outrageous customs in the Western Cape.

The Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Ian Neilson, braved the steep ladder to the commentary tower at the Drag Strip for the official opening of StreetFest 2019. He welcomed the visitors, local racers and the thousands of spectators lining both sides of the strip, saying that Cape Town, the Events Capital of Africa, was proud to host big motor sport events such as this, events that cater as much to grassroots enthusiasts as professional race crews.

There was music all day from the Coca Cola Gig Rig, a bewildering variety of good things to eat and drink, to wear and to upgrade your car, from custom wheels to high-quality suspension components and bolt-on custom bumpers, grilles and aero kits.

Most of the noise, the excitement and the tyre smoke, however, came from the Drag Strip, as top racers with screaming turbo-charged four-cylinder engines, howling sixes and thundering seven-litre V8s thrilled the crowds with huge burnouts before launching off the line to cover the 402 metres to the finish line as quickly as they could.

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Jannie Bezuidenhout’s Mk1 Golf prepares for a hot run.

It sounds simple, but the launch is crucial. Most drag races are won and lost in the first second of the run; as a combination of brute force and precision car control it is unmatched in any other form of motor sport.

The fastest time of the day was set by local hero Ralph Kumbier in Suspect, Shaheen Barmania’s twin-turbo Chev Lumina Ute bakkie, who laid down a superb 9,356 second pass at 227,68 km/h, closely followed by Shaun Zurich in his immaculately prepared Honda Civic, reputedly the quickest normally aspirated front-wheel drive car in Africa.

His best effort of 9,483 seconds at 230,95 km/h was good enough to win him Class OA for modified normally aspirated cars, well ahead of Hennie Watkins’ Toyota Corolla (11,173 seconds at 192,07 km/h) and Lyle Africa in a Honda CRX (11,195 seconds at 199,65 km/h).

Third overall, and second in Class OS for open force-fed machines, was Rudy Roode in an all-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf Mk2, with a 9,831 second pass at 234 79 km/h, just two hundredths of a second ahead of petite 20-year-old Yuresa ‘Yuri’ Naidoo from Durban, the fastest lady on the day in an Audi TTRS.

Sadly, Tiaan van der Merwe from Mpumalanga in Fireball – a mid-1970s Ford Escort with a seven-litre Chevrolet crate engine by Steve Schmidt of Indianapolis, Indiana – was unable to make good on his stated ambition of breaking into the nines on his first visit to the coast, although he came tantalisingly close with a best effort of 10,449 seconds at 187,92 km/h.

And that’s all motor, the commentators reminded the crowds, without forced induction or chemical assistance!

Even more disappointed was Shawn Dziire out of Johannesburg, who got even closer to the magic 10-second mark in his raucous turbo-charged BMW E30 with a 10,194 second pass at 195 423 km/h before its differential failed.

Class 4A went to Moeneeb Parker in a Nissan Champ bakkie with an 11,573 second run at 194,08 km/h, while Dziire made up for his Class OS disappointment by taking Class 4S in his Opel SuperBoss with a best effort of 11,814 seconds at 193,10 km/h and Class 6S was won by Herman Mostert in a Toyota Corolla fitted with a straight-six 2JZ engine, who laid down an astonishing 9,503 second pass at 223,76 km/h.

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Reece ‘Buddy’ Robertson’s Suzuki was the fastest bike on the day.

The quickest times of the day, as always, were set by the motorcycle competitors, led by Reece ‘Buddy’ Robertson, (Suzuki GSX-R1000) with a best run of 8,684 seconds at 254,78 km/h. He was the only rider into the eights on the day, well ahead of a pair of BMW S1000RRs in the hands of Edson Almeida and Irrvinne Bruinders (9 150 seconds at 250,43 km/h and 9, 453 seconds at 240 22 km/h respectively). Fourth was 16-year-old Stephen Lottering from Port Elizabeth, with a very creditable 9 528 second pass at 238, 76 on a brand new Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Top quad rider was Kyle Johannes (Yamaha Banshee), who caused a stir when he laid down the only sub 12 second run of the day on a quad at 11,967 seconds and 166 95 km/h.

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This superb Ford Mustang won its class in the Show ‘n Shine competition.

 

Tough choice for SA Car of the Year

With 14 vehicles having been selected as finalists in the South African Car of the Year competition, the task of selecting one overall winner is not going to be an easy one and, for the first time in the long history of the event one manufacturer – Toyota – has three nominated finalists.

The cars can also win one of seven categories: Family, Leisure, Lifestyle, Premium Car, Premium SUV, Sport/Performance or Urban.

The most hotly contested category is Leisure, with four finalists: the Peugeot 5008, Toyota RAV4, Citroën C3 Aircross and Volkswagen T-Cross. The Premium SUV category is also well populated, with three finalists: the BMW X5, Jaguar I-PACE and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

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Peugeot 5008

There are two finalists in the Urban and Family categories. The Hyundai Atos and Suzuki Swift Sport are fighting it out for laurels in Urban while the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla Hatch are going tooth and nail for top honours in the Family category.

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Suzuki Swift Sport

There is one finalist in each of the remaining three categories: the BMW 3 Series is the finalist in the Premium Car category, the Sports/Performance category has the Toyota GR Supra as its finalist and the Ford Ranger Raptor is the sole finalist in the Lifestyle category.

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Toyota Supra

A win in the prestigious 2020 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year competition will be significant for all of the brands involved in the contest. For some of the finalists to win, it would really be one for the history books.

Citroën, for instance, has yet to win South Africa’s most sought-after motoring accolade – and the timing could not be better, given the fact that the French manufacturer has just re-entered the South African market.

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Citroen C3 Aircross

Suzuki did exceptionally well in the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year, with its Swift and Jimny winning their categories (Urban Compact and Lifestyle Utility respectively). However, it has never notched up an overall win. An electric car and a bakkie have never won the competition either, meaning an I-PACE or Raptor victory will be truly momentous.

According to Vivien Natasen, chairman of the 2020 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year competition and honorary secretary of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (which organises the competition), there are some really strong contenders in this year’s contest.

“Right now, there is no clear front runner, it anyone’s guess as to which car will win,” he notes.

AutoTrader CEO, George Mienie, reveals members of the public would like to see a win by the Mazda3.

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Mazda CX3

“It triumphed in the consumer vote, where we had hundreds of thousands of votes. The consumer votes act as the 28th Juror in the competition. Mazda’s last win was back in 2008, with the Mazda2 1.5 Individual – so it will be interesting to see if this Japanese company can take top honours,” he comments.

Mienie adds that fellow Japanese automaker, Toyota, has good odds for a possible win.

“Toyota is the only company with three finalists in the 2020 competition,” he points out.

Toyota notched up two overall wins in the 1980s – the Toyota Corolla Twin Cam won in 1986 and the Toyota Corolla GLi Executive took the title in 1989. However, a win has proved elusive for the company since then.

The next step in the 2020 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year journey is the track and road testing of the finalists in March 2020 by 27 of South Africa’s top motoring journalists. The category and overall winners will be announced at an event hosted by AutoTrader in April 2020.

 2020 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year Finalists

BMW 3 Series

BMW X5

Citroën C3 Aircross

Ford Ranger Raptor

Hyundai Atos

Jaguar I-PACE

Mazda3

Mercedes-Benz GLE

Peugeot 5008

Suzuki Swift Sport

Toyota Corolla Hatch

Toyota GR Supra

Toyota RAV4

Volkswagen T-Cross

2020 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year Finalists by Category

 

Family

Mazda3

Toyota Corolla Hatch

Leisure

Citroën C3 Aircross

Peugeot 5008

Toyota RAV4

Volkswagen T-Cross

Lifestyle

Ford Ranger Raptor

Premium Car

BMW 3 Series

Premium SUV

BMW X5

Jaguar I-PACE

Mercedes-Benz GLE

Sports/Performance

Toyota GR Supra

Urban

Hyundai Atos

Suzuki Swift Sport

Hectic chase for Polo Cup title

With just two race heats left in the 2019 Falken Polo Cup, it could come down to more than ‘rubbing is racing’ at the final round at Red Star Raceway this weekend.

Aside from the season-long tussle between reigning champion Jeffrey Kruger and rising star Bradley Liebenberg, it promises some of the closest and most intense on-track battles you will find on the national calendar.

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Kruger and Liebenberg have certainly been in a class of their own this year, with the current Falken Polo Cup champion and his young title rival sharing all but three of the 17 race wins that have been up for grabs thus far, with one round remaining.

Liebenberg was brimming with confidence going into the Killarney race weekend leading the championship, and an impressive hat-trick of wins meant the 2019 trophy seemed to be within reach. However, a push-to-pass infringement on the opening lap of race three saw his victory subsequently nullified – thus handing Kruger a five-point lead for the season finale at Red Star Raceway.

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While Kruger has clearly upped his game in the second half of the season, Liebenberg holds the psychological advantage of eight wins to Kruger’s six – with the final scores to be settled over two thrilling race heats at the challenging Red Star circuit.

The interest will not just be at the sharp end of the field, though, with the fight for the final podium position for the 2019 championship featuring Jurie Swart, Chris Shorter, Matt Shorter and Keegan Campos. With 22 points separating the four drivers, each of them will be on maximum attack.

Clinton Bezuidenhout and Dario Busi are currently tied for seventh place, with Volkswagen Motorsport driver Jonathan Mogotsi hot on their heels in ninth. Jason Campos and Justin Oates, in 10th and 11th places respectively, have both been excluded from the final round due to on-track incidents in Cape Town.

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“Falken Polo Cup continues to deliver exceptionally close and exciting racing, as it has done for the past 22 years,” says Mike Rowe, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “As a breeding ground for the motorsport stars of the future, it truly is unparalleled.”

“Jeffrey and Bradley have made the 2019 season virtually all their own with superb driving, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top when the final flag drops. The battle for third place will be very exciting, and spectators can look forward to some spectacular action from the Falken Polo Cup young guns,” Rowe states.

 

Aiming for the podium

The title may well be done and dusted but, that is not stopping newly crowned Class T Champions Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable from going full out for a top step podium placing at the final round of the 2019 South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) in Parys on November 1 and 2.

The Castrol Ford Cross Country Team of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable wrapped up their second consecutive Class T title at the Lichtenburg 400 in September and, having claimed five wins on a trot, have been virtually untouchable this year.

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A second-place finish in Lichtenburg was the only time the talented duo have not stood on the top step of the podium, although the result was more than sufficient to secure their second Class T title in a row in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) designed and built Ford Ranger V8.

“We have had a superb season, and there will be no better way to finish off the year than by taking victory at the Parys 400,” says Neil Woolridge, team principal of NWM. “It is a new event on the calendar, so it presents an exciting challenge for all of the teams.”

While notching up another class victory will be the main objective, there is also a podium position at stake in the overall Production Vehicle championship. Going into the last round, Woolridge and Huxtable are currently placed second, just 31 points behind newly crowned overall Production Vehicle champions Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings in their FIA Dakar Rally-specification Toyota.

Despite competing in the lower-spec Class T category, the Ford pair are currently placed ahead of a trio of faster Class FIA Toyotas by virtue of their faultless performance throughout the 2019 season. They hold a five-point advantage over former Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy in the second factory Toyota entry, and are 26 points ahead of Shameer Variawa/Juan Mohr. Chris Visser is 29 points adrift in the driver’s rankings in his privately-run FIA Toyota.

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“Besides their unbroken run of podium finishes throughout the year in Class T, Lance and Ward defied the odds in the second race in Botswana by winning the event overall and beating the FIA entries in the process,” Woolridge senior adds. “A top-three finish in the overall Production Vehicle championship will be the perfect reward for their remarkable pace and consistency, as well as the exceptional work of the team as a whole this year.”

Joining them once again in the starting line-up will be reigning Brazilian cross country champions Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea in the second Castrol NWM Ford Ranger. The visitors have been strong contenders during each of their outings in the fiercely competitive SACCS this year, most recently earning a fourth place in Lichtenburg.

For motorsport fans, the Parys 400 presents an exciting opportunity to see the country’s top racers in action – all within easy reach of the main hubs of the Gauteng, Free State and North West provinces. Located on the banks of the Vaal River, it should also attract plenty of interest from those that have made the town of Parys a popular weekend destination.

The Parys airfield will be at the heart of the event, serving as the designated service park (DSP), as well as the start and finish points for the race. The dust starts flying on Friday, November 1 with a short sprint-style 45 km qualifying loop that determines the starting order for Saturday’s main race.

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Competitors will complete two laps of the 180 km main race loop on Saturday, starting at 08:00. Once the opening lap is completed, the crews have a compulsory 30-minute service break to conduct any repairs and refuel the cars. With the restart for the second loop only kicking off at 12:00, this is the ideal opportunity for spectators to visit the DSP and meet the teams.

According to the organisers, the route will incorporate a stadium section immediately after the start along the R59, then heads off in a southerly direction, passing under the N1 before turning east towards the farm Dover from where it will turn north-west to Weiveld Boerevereniging.

From here it will again turn west under the N1 to return to the airfield. The route is expected to present competitors with a good combination of grazing and cultivated farmlands, along with some technical sections, a few rocky ridges and stream crossings – all of which will add to the challenge.

Fans can follow the action and track the position of the crews throughout the race using the RallySafe app which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

 

Top 30 drivers for Kyalami 9-Hour

The ear-banging, gut-rumbling sound of at least 30 GT3 cars will reverberate around Kylami on November 21-23 when the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli season finale gets underway.

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The legendary race returns to the international schedule for the first time in 37 years next month when Intercontinental’s eight full-season manufacturers – Audi Sport, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes-AMG, Nissan and Porsche – are joined by Aston Martin and Lamborghini on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

While the event’s spiritual successor was held in different guises until 2000, the original nine-hour iteration hasn’t been staged since Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass powered a Porsche 956 to victory in 1982.

All that changes on November 23 when the world’s best drivers tackle the revived Kyalami 9 Hour. Indeed, 20 of the 30 entries will compete for points counting towards the world’s only global GT3 championship but, more importantly, gives race fans a chance to see the South African drivers that have been flying our flag overseas.

Mercedes-AMG heads to South Africa leading both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ Championships and has again nominated its maximum number of four Intercontinental entries.

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Maxi Buhk

Maxi Buhk leads Raffaele Marciello by three points and with both once again sharing GruppeM’s entry alongside Maro Engel, only the former can mathematically win the crown. Meanwhile, victory for fellow title protagonist Maxi Goetz – who shares one of two SPS Automotive Performance entries with Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman – would be enough to pinch the championship regardless of Buhk’s result.

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The same scenario applies to Frederic Vervisch who also heads to Kyalami six points behind Buhk and with Audi Sport now unable to retain the Manufacturers’ Championship, their attention will be focused on the Belgian who reprises his Suzuka 10 Hours-winning partnership with WRT co-drivers Kelvin van der Linde and Dries Vanthoor.

Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and 2016 Intercontinental GT Challenge champion Markus Winkelhock share a second R8 LMS GT3 entered by Land Motorsport, which also represented Audi at Laguna Seca and Spa.

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Porsche, meanwhile, is the only marque capable of beating Mercedes-AMG to the Manufacturers’ crown. It is a tall order – Weissach trails Affalterbach by 22 points with a maximum 43 available – but Porsche’s four Pro nominations and 12 factory drivers underline its intent.

Total 24 Hours of Spa winners, GPX Racing, and victory contenders, KUS Team 75 Bernhard, are joined by Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup front-runners Dinamic Motorsport and long-time Porsche partners Frikadelli Racing Team.

Interestingly, and for the first time this year, Porsche has split its two full-season crews to increase its chances of also winning the Drivers’ title. Dirk Werner, Matt Campbell and Dennis Olsen start 10 points behind Buhk but are scattered across three teams, while the fourth – GPX – features Spa’s winning trio of Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.

Bentley, Nissan and Honda are again represented by their full-season teams, while BMW’s Intercontinental commitment increases to three thanks to a second Walkenhorst-run M6 joining Suzuka 10 Hours pole-winners, Team Schnitzer.

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However, two heavy accidents in as many rounds will prevent HubAuto Corsa from travelling to South Africa. Instead, Ferrari’s Intercontinental hopes rest with Rinaldi Racing who will be eager to add a record-extending ninth Kyalami 9 Hour win to Maranello’s trophy cabinet.

Elsewhere, three Aston Martin Vantages are heading to South Africa courtesy of Blancpain GT Series regulars R-Motorsport and Garage 59.

But it’s not just international teams making the trip to Kyalami. True to the event’s traditions, three South African squads have also entered: Stradale Motorsport, Pablo Clark Racing and Team Perfect Circle.

Three more South Africans – Jordan Pepper plus Van der Linde brothers Kelvin and Sheldon – are all part of Bentley, Audi and BMW factory rosters at Kyalami where they’re joined by compatriots David Perel, Gennaro Bonafede and Ignatius Michael Van Rooyen in #IntGTC-nominated entries. Lechner Racing also includes rising local talent, Saul Hack, in their driver line-up.

Meanwhile, SunEnergy1 are eligible to score points in all three Intercontinental GT Challenge championships, including the Bronze classification, thanks to Kenny Habul who shares his Mercedes-AMG with Bernd Schneider and Thomas Jaeger.

 

Done and dusted

It is done and dusted in more ways than one for Simon Vacy-Lyle who clinched the South African Rally Navigator’s title at the TracN4 National Rally at the weekend – despite difficulties negotiating the thick sand that characterised the event.

BRONKHORSTSPRUIT NRC RALLY 22 SEPT 2019 D4 60 600-3

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle accomplished their mission of finishing in the Top 3 – vital to gain the points Vacy-Lyle needed.. Botterill had already won the drivers’ title for the year – making it six titles in a row – but the Toyota Etios crew had to attain a podium spot in the penultimate event of the year in order to secure the navigators’ title for Vacy-Lyle.

“Things started well for us,” explained Botterill after completing the Gauteng-based event. “We ended Day 1 with a lead, despite struggling through some very thick sand caused by the extremely dry conditions.”

All the crews battled in the sand, which made it very tricky for the front-wheel-drive rally cars to set a good pace. Overheating was a constant threat, as was the possibility of snapping a side-shaft due to excessive wheelspin in the loose sand.

“Unfortunately, we fell foul to exactly that problem early on Day 2,” continued Botterill. “We snapped a side-shaft on the Toyota Etios, and suddenly found ourselves with just one-wheel-drive. We considered abandoning the rally, as getting through the very thick stuff was almost impossible in the circumstances.”

However, with their eyes on the prize for Vacy-Lyle, the pair pushed on. They cleared one stage, and then drove at nothing more than limping pace through another stage, before reaching the service park mid-way through Day 2.

BRONKHORSTSPRUIT NRC RALLY 22 SEPT 2019 D4 60 600-2-2

“Our crew did an amazing job repairing the car. They fitted a new transmission, and also replaced the diff and both side-shafts. With the work done, we were right back on the pace,” says Botterill.

Unfortunately, the pair had lost a bundle of time, and had slipped down to fifth in the standings – too far down the order to secure the championship for Vacy-Lyle.

Then fate intervened.

“Chris Coertse rolled his car in the third-last stage – nothing spectacular, but unfortunately the car came to rest in some extremely dry grass. The hot exhaust set the grass alight, and soon the Mazda was on fire.”

The competitors behind the stricken Mazda stopped to assist, using their fire-extinguishers to try to save the car. One spectator even attempted to push the car out of the burning grass with his own car, but sadly the spectator’s car also caught fire, and both cars had to be abandoned.

“In the end, the organisers had no choice but to stop the event at that point, simply because many competitors had exhausted their fire-extinguishers, and couldn’t race without them for safety reasons,” explained Botterill. “With Chris out, and one other competitor excluded for a technical infringement, we suddenly found ourselves promoted from fifth place to third – just what we needed!”

As a result, the Toyota Etios Crew scored enough points to seal the deal for Vacy-Lyle, with one round in hand. The final event for 2019 is the Ermelo Rally, which is scheduled for the weekend of 25-26 October.