It was a horrible weekend for South African rallying with the road accident deaths of rally driver Dolf Coetzee and a technical developer of the Subaru team of Rory Eland, Tino Gouws – this on top of the cancellation of Day Two of the Baywest National Rally due to inclement weather and dangerous roads.
Results were declared after the completion of the first day’s special stages with AC Potgieter and Nico Swartz (VW Polo) winning overall by eight seconds from Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Gazoo Racing Etios) with Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden – also Etios mounted – in third place.
Two large icy cold fronts moved into the Port Elizabeth area shortly before the start of Round 4 of the 2019 South African National Rally Championship (NRC), excessive rain in the area forcing the decision to cancel Day 2.
“We had some issues towards the end of the first day,” said a rueful Botterill after the event. “We struggled with our alternator on the last long open section of the day, but then our power steering failed just as we started the final tarmac stages. This made it almost impossible to drive the car in the tight, twisty car park stages, and we lost a lot of time as a result.”
The crew worked feverishly to repair the normally reliable Class R2N Toyota Etios and managed to complete all the repairs before the end of the day. But then the rains continued overnight, all but flooding the stages in the Longmore Forest.
“We were upbeat about our chances on Day 2, as we were only eight seconds behind AC Potgieter despite our troubles, with plenty of stages to come. And I usually find it fun to rally in wet conditions, so I reckon we were in with a very good chance for victory.”
This result leaves Botterill/Vacy-Lyle firmly in control at the top of the championship standings, but may result in pressure from Potgieter and navigator Nico Swartz (Volkswagen) later in the season.
The next round of the 2019 NRC is scheduled for 23-24 August, when the Zane Rencken National Rally will take place near Dalton, KwaZulu-Natal.
The tragic road accident occurred while Coetzee and Gouws were returning home from the event when their vehicle was involved in a collision with a truck. Two other members of the Subaru service crew were passengers in the same vehicle and one of them was airlifted to Bloemfontein with another person who was in yet another vehicle behind them, while the other member of the Subaru crew was taken to hospital by ambulance.