There will be a new look to South African rallying as they long-delayed season gets under way this weekend with defending champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle taking a Class R4 Toyota Etios out for the first time – sadly, not in front of spectators.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew will take on both Rounds 1 and 2 on the same weekend, after the lengthy delays that the championship experienced because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The crew has fully prepared their Class R4 Toyota Etios rally car, which will be entered in the newly formed Class NRC 1 for this year’s championship. This class caters for all four-wheel-drive rally cars, up to Class R4, including the older S2000 and N4 rally cars, which now become eligible to score points in the national championship again.
The Lake Umuzi National Rally, which takes place on September 11 and 12, will incorporate the first two rounds of the 2020 season, with each day of the rally representing a round in the championship. Different stages will be used during each day.
“We are excited at the prospect of finally getting our season under way,” says Botterill of the upcoming event. “We’ve prepared our Toyota Etios meticulously, and recent shakedowns have shown that the car is ready to take on the new-look South African National Rally Championship.”
The SA National Rally Championship will run over five rounds and will extend beyond the usual R2N class, allowing all classes to compete for overall championship honours in a move to grow the sport. Additionally, national teams will not be able to enter for regionals, allowing all regional cars to compete with each other.
The National Rally circuit usually attracts large crowds of local spectators, but this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, fans will be able to view the action via online streaming and SA Rally social media channels.
“The Lake Umuzi Rally is always a great event surrounded by a community who loves motorsport action. The rally stages are uniquely situated within a 10 km radius from Secunda. The business community and landowners put in a tremendous effort to grade the roads, market the event and support us as best they can,” says SA Rally administrator, William Louw. “We are also incredibly grateful to have the support of Ctrack, Electrothread, MRF, SS Telecoms, RaceDay TV, Lake Umuzi and TRACN4 in such challenging times.”
An new feature at this year’s National Rally is the R4 class. This all-wheel-drive FIA category was recently added to the FIA World Rally Car hierarchy to fill the gap between front-wheel drives R3 & R2 categories and the all-wheel-drive R5 and WRC classes.
Reigning SA Champion driver Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle will be changing to an R4 spec Toyota Etios, fully FIA homologated and known as Rally 2 kit on the international stage. It is a 1600 turbo all-wheel drive, making it a little monster compared to the previous R2N class which was a front-wheel-drive with no turbo boost.
“It’s going to be thrilling to see these cars perform as they will be super competitive. In fact, they are even faster than the 4WD S2000 cars which we were used to seeing compete for top honours up to a few years ago. We expect to see some hungry drivers biting at one another’s heels in these monsters so the action will be intense”, says Louw.
Another exciting new class this year is the Polo Vivo GT Cup. VW Motorsport’s Mike Rowe says this is an entry-level class that aims to make the sport more accessible to newcomers.
“The class is designed for production-based 1 000cc turbo-charged Volkswagen Polo cars, adapted for rallying of course. We look forward to seeing the likes of Benjamin Habig and Jayden Els joining the ranks – two youngsters who have made a great name for themselves in karting. Benjamin is the son of multiple rally champion Jannie Habig, who is no stranger to the Volkswagen brand, so it will be wonderful to see the legendary Habig name on the side of a rally car again.”
KEY EVENT DETAILS:
Round 1 and 2: Secunda, 11-12 September
Round 3: Venue TBC, 17 October
Round 4 and 5: TracN4 Rally Dullstroom, 27 – 28 November
Event information available at: http://www.sarallying.co.za