South African special stage rallying got a glimpse of a potential future at the weekend when Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries dominated the Rally of South Africa in the first local outing for a R4 specification Toyota Etios.
However, it was a second victory on the trot for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle, Round 2 of the National Rally Championship (NRC).
The event, which was held in the area around the Mpumalanga town of Sabie, also featured as part of the African Rally Championship, but in Class R2N, the South African championship class, it was the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Etios that again came out on top.
This year’s event was rebranded as the Rally of South Africa, after former title sponsors, York Timbers, decided to limit their support of the event for 2019. Even so, the rally proved as popular as ever, with many spectators lining the forest tracks that make up the bulk of the racing stages for the event.
“This year’s rally was very rough in places,” said Botterill after the event, “but everything ran like clockwork, and we are very pleased with our result.”
While the overall standings show Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries at the top, it was Botterill/Vacy-Lyle who set the fastest time in the national class, bringing their Class R2N Toyota Etios home some 2:53 ahead of their nearest rivals, in the form of JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit (Ford). Third place went to Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich (Mazda).
“We had a moment on Day 2, when an engine mount broke due to the rough terrain,” said Botterill. “We nearly lost the coupling with the gearbox, but all sorts of jury rigs held things together until service, otherwise it could easily have been game over.”
Despite the hairy moment, the crew managed to nurse their car to the service park without losing significant time. Once repaired, they were back on track, and posting stage times quicker than some of the Class RC2 cars, competing in the African Rally Championship.
“Overall, we had a really good event, and we’re happy to be building up a lead in the championship. You never know what happens later in the season, so we’ll gladly bank as much as possible early on,” concluded Botterill.
In the overall standings, it was Fekken/Arries who dominated proceedings in the R4 spec Toyota Etios, which competed in Class RC2 in Sabie. The pair lead from flag to flag, clearly showing the pace of the new car, which may show the way forward for South African rallying in 2020 and beyond.
Local rallying, without any direct involvement from the motor manufacturers, sorely needs an injection of competing numbers to remain worthy of being called a national series. A tough economy is major reason for the drop in competitor numbers.
Perhaps, since the R4 kit can be bolted onto any car, it may help to solve the impasse.
Next up is the KZN Rally, which will take place on 24 and 25 May, 2019. Details of the event are yet to be announced, but this will be a home rally for Botterill/Vacy-Lyle, and pair are already looking forward to competing on home turf.