by The Write Idea – 28 May 2023 10:30:00

WhatSouth African National Rally Championship Rounds 1 & 2 Report
WhereSecunda, Mpumalanga
When26-27 May 2023
CommunitySouth Africa National

Double SA Rally Championship win for Potgieter & du Toit

JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit opened the 2023 South African Rally season with two wins out of two at the Billy Te Water Memorial Rally in Secunda at the weekend. In so doing the dup gave themselves a solid start in their chase for National Championship honours. 

It was However no easy task, with the top three competitors separated by mere seconds on both days, as they jostled for position on a very fast-paced event. Average speeds on the dirt and grass special stages reached 126 km/h. As a point of reference, the World Rally Championship cars are restricted to 130 km/h. 

The event constituted the first two rounds of the SA National Championship with each day’s rallying a separate round of the 2023 championship. Day two including the Regional Championship runners.

Day 1: First Blood Potgieter & du Toit 

Potgieter and Du Toit and their Rally2 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 after seven fraught 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.

Photo by Dries Beetge

“I was so eager to get going I left the handbrake slightly engaged on Stage 4!” Potgieter admitted. “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 any mistakes, a broken anti-roll bar on Stage 4 meant Potgieter was forced to slow, but two stages later, the pressure came off slightly when Jono van Wyk had oil pressure issues. He had to slow right down, dropping back behind the hard-charging Coertse and 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. Benjamin Habig and Barry White put in a storming drive to finish up fourth overall for the day in their Just Tools Volkswagen Polo.

Fifth place overall and second in the NRC2, Gustav Potgieter and Carolyn Swan’s Ford Fiesta held Michael McGregor and Craig Reynecke in a Volkswagen Polo off.

Jonathan Simms and Adam Tyrer on their first NRC1 outing in seventh from fourth in NRC2, Magriet Potgieter and Rikus Fourie’s Ford Fiesta. “The car is brand new and it is a completely new learning process for me to change to four-wheel drive,” Simms admitted. “So I’m happy with the way things are going.”

Day 1: Potgieter, du Toit Double Up

Saturday morning dawned with overcast skies and a hint of rain in the air. It, fortunately, held off for the day, which produced just as thrilling a series of battles that were fought in Friday’s opening round. And once again, it was Pretorius and du Toit, birthday boy Coertse and Godrich and Van Wyk and Swartz trading stage times as they chased each other as hard as they could.

Photo by Dries Beetge

“I decided to take a slightly less aggressive approach for the day and actually started to go quicker,” Coertse shrugged. “Our biggest problem this morning 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 it probably evened out in the end.”

Potgieter never let up and despite losing 16 seconds to the wildlife, finished the day on the top step of the podium. This time the Hyundai ended a healthier 30 seconds clear Coertse and Godrich in the Mazda, with van Wyk and Swartz’s Toyotas settling for third place after a puncture cost them time on the final stage.

The actual last stage of the day was cancelled after Natie Booysen and Johan Smit suffered a spectacular and massive rollover to reduce their immaculate Ford Escort Mk1 to scrap metal over a gravel pile in 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,” Habig attempted to explain. “It tripped us up!”

Johan Strauss and Elzann Venter’s Subaru Impreza came on strong to end up finishing fifth overall for the day with Gustav Potgieter and Carolyn 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 all-wheel drive and he and Adam Tyrer drove the Toyota Tazz to seventh place and fifth in NRC1 ahead of Michael McGregor and Shaun Visser.

Anton Raaths and Mari Ducasse and their Ford Escort won In the Regional competition run over the same stages, overall for the day. They beat Braam Muller and Wouter Erasmus’ Subaru Impreza and the Simms and Tyrer in their Tazz

Photo by Dries Beetge

The South African National Rally Championship heads off to the Eastern Cape next for rounds 3 and 4 at the Algoa Rally around Gqebehra, Jeffries Bay and the Longmore Forests over the weekend of 7 and 8 July.

ENDSIssued on behalf of SA Rally Championship

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