|What||MRF South African Rally Championship Round 1 Report|
|Where||Overberg, Western Cape|
|When||20-21 May 2022|
|Community||South Africa National|
Dark Horse Habig, Comeback Champ Joubert Survive to Win
The 2022 MRF Tyres South African Rally Championship got off to a dramatic start at an eventful and entertaining opening double header Cape Overberg Rally over the weekend. Typified by packed service parks, crowded spectator areas and long queues of rally cars waiting at controls, the local stage sport is certainly back on the up. But the results surprised as Benjamin Habig and Barry White’s NRC2 Just Tools VW Polo and Theuns Joubert Schalk van Heerden Salom Toyota Yaris survived to win the two days.
FRIDAY: DARK HORSE MAIDEN WIN
Run as two separate rounds out of Bredasdorp on Friday and Klipdale Saturday, local Cape crews kept the national entries on their toes throughout as a fine 34 car field came under starters orders at Bredasdorp Friday morning. Two runs over on the typically fast Cape 12 kilometre Freightmore Express stage opened the action as new all-wheel drive cars topped the time sheets. Wilro Dipenaar and Carolyn Swan’s PZN Toyota Auris pipped Guy Botteril and Simon Vacy-Lyle’s brand new Gazoo Toyota Racing Starlet to both those wins.
But a ten second administrative penalty for the Auris saw Botteril and Lyle into a six second lead as they headed to 10 km Double O stage. Dipenaar and Swan struck again to trim that penalty-induced deficit to under a second. Behind them, the local regional S5 class Subaru lmpreza WRX STI equipped Jones clan loomed large with Llewellyn and Christophe Pichon, Owen and Aden Bredenkamp and Shaun and Jason Thorpe ahead of NRC2 leaders Gerald Klopper and Johan Aucamp's Toyota Etios.
Botteril and Lyle then turned the tables to take the 22 km stage 4 and lead Dipenaar and Swan by under three seconds midway through round 1, with the Joneses in pursuit from Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich in their Rally Technic Hyundai i20 AWD. A NRC2 duel was meanwhile developing between Klopper and Aucamp and Benjamin Habig and Barry White’s Just Tools VW Polo. SA champion Theuns Joubert and Schalk van Heerden had exited with engine trouble after stage 2, while Anton Raath's Louis Menge rolled their Ford Escort Cosworth out in stage 4.
Botteril and Lyle were getting into their stride as they started edging away from their pursuers in Stage 5 as Klopper and Aucamp lost 10 minutes to leave Habig and White in a clear NRC 2 lead. They chased George Smallberger and Robbie Coetzee’s Shield VW Polo for sixth behind the Jones' Subarus. But the second run across the 22 km Xtreme Holdings stage was to prove just that — Xtreme.
First, second-placed Dippenaar and Swan’s sweet-sounding engine went rough and they were out. Then fourth placed Shaun Jones and Jason Thorpe’s Subaru lost ten minutes in the stage. And then leaders Botteril and Vacy-Lyle slowed on oil pressure concerns on the Starlet to plummet to tenth overall and fifth among the National runners. So Llewellyn led Owen Jones overall, with NRC2 man Habig topping the national field from Coertze and Godrich, Johan Strauss and Elzaan Venter’s Subaru, the struggling Smallberger and Coetzee and Botteril and Lyle.
There may have been only a couple of laps around the Bredasdorp Aughallas Oval to go, but there was still drama. Owen Jones and Guy Botteril shared the Oval firsts and seconds from Habig in third each time, but Smallberger and Coetzee’s Polo blew its engine on the hot rod track. Which left Llewellyn Jones and Pichon to take the overall win from Owen Jones and Bredenkamp in a Cape Subaru 1-2 from National winners, NRC2 dark horses Habig and White and NRC1 winners Coertze and Godrich.
All of which meant that the delighted son of former multiple SA champion Jannie, Benjamin Habig won his first MRF South African Rally in his Just Tools Volkswagen Polo alongside Barry White. Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich ended up second, 23 seconds adrift in their Rally Technic Hyundai from Johan Strauss and Elzaan Venter’s Subaru, Guy Botteril and Simon Vacy-Lyle’s rapid Gazoo Starlet and second NRC2 finishers, Gerald Klopper and Johan Aucamp’s Etios. Anrico Opperman and Tommy Coetzee’s Shield VW Polo held rally lass Andrea and he mum lsabel Raath's Toyota RunX off for NRC4 honours.
Overall 1-2 Llewellyn Jones and Pichon topped the regional and N5 rankings from Owen Jones and Bredenkamp’s Subarus, ahead of Neels Vosloo and Rikus Fourie in a VW Polo. Keenan Sassman and Lloyd Brady’s Toyota Corolla took an easy S4 win from Shaheen and Yusuf Amlay’s Conquest, while Sakkie Rikus van Zyl's Golf took S2 and Julian Calvert and Nicholas Knights’ Golf hung on to take S3.
SATURDAY: A CHAMPION’S COMEBACK
It was a fresh start at Klipdale Saturday morning as 20 cars including most of Friday’s survivors and some repaired machinery came under orders at Klipdale Saturday morning. One of those repaired cars, Champion Theuns Joubert and Schalk van Heerden’s Salom Toyota Yaris was fast out of the starting blocks to take charge on the opening 13 km Overberg Agri stage. They beat the Jones and Bredenkamp and Jones and Thorpe Subarus, NRC1 duo Coertse and Godrich in the Huyndai, Botteril and Lyle’s Starlet and NRC2 leaders Habig and White.
Botteril and Lyle bounced back to take stage 2 from Joubert and van Heerden as Friday winners Habig and White retired with gearbox issues. Botteril and Lyle then stretched their new Starlet’s legs a little to move into a 10 second lead with a 14 second win on the 11 km Ramlay Builders third stage, again over Joubert and van Heerden. The Gazoo Starlet duo then took another closer win over the Salom Yaris pair in the 15 km fifth Freightmore Express stage. Behind them, Llewellyn and Owen Jones’ regional Subarus kept Coertse and Godrich at bay, but just a minute covered the top five.
But drama struck in the 11 km Rwaan Media Stage. Botteril and Lyle’s Gazoo Starlet broke a suspension control arm to retire from the lead. So Joubert and van Heerden led, but not by much after being beaten by the Jones Subarus in that stage to take a 14 second lead into the final two stages over Owen, with Llewellen only 20 seconds off the lead. Joubert and van Heerden however blitzed both those final tests to take an ultimately dominant win in the Salom Yaris.
Llewelyn Jones and Pichon hung on to second as Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich stole third in the final stage from Owen Jones and Thorpe and Strauss and Venter. So Theuns Joubert got his MRF SA National Rally title defence off to a late start with round 2 victory on the Klipadale leg of the Cape Overberg Rally. Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich were second in NRC1 from Johan Strauss and Elzaan Venter’s Subaru. There were no finishers in NRC2, but Anrico Opperman and Tommy Coetzee’s Shield Polo did the double in NRC4.
Llewellyn Jones and Christophe Pichon likewise did the regional and N5 double over Shaun Jones and Jason Thorpe’s similar Subaru lmpreza WRX STI. lnus du Plessis and Piet Carinus’ BMW 328i took S4, Theo and Tyler Croy’s Toyota Corolla RXi won S3 and Gareth Vernon and Marius Rudolph's Golf S2.
The MRF Tyres South African Rally Championship now leaves the Cape and its fierce regional competitors for the Mpumalanga stages of Secunda and rounds 3 and 4 on 10-11 June. And with more turbo 2-litre NRC1 entries looming and up to seven new NRC2 cars expected there, the revitalised local stage sport can look forward to continue to step up towards its halcyon expectations as the season progresses. Diarise it now!
Issued on behalf of MRF SA Rally
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