A KEEN BATTLE DEVELOPING IN S1600 RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Back-to-back wins in the opening rounds of the two-wheel drive S1600 South African rally championship see Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2) as the team to beat in round three, the Pretoria Motor Club (PMC) Gauteng Rally, this weekend.
A full house of 25 points and a 12-point lead over second-placed Willie van Straaten and Scott Howden (Toyota RunX) seems like a good cushion, but such is the competitiveness of the S1600 class that anything can, and usually does, happen.
Van Straaten and Howden are a surprise package in their first S1600 season together and have taken full advantage of their opportunities to finish second and fourth to date while some of their more illustrious rivals have failed to perform to the level expected.
Hot on their heels and looking for the top step of the podium in Gauteng will be Simon’s brother Matthew and co-driver Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Tools Toyota Etios R2), who are six points behind Van Straaten and Howden with 32 points.
Pre-season prospects Chad van Beurden and Nico Swartz (Beurden Construction VW Polo R2) are fourth on 26 points after a fine second place behind the championship leaders in the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga in April.
Promising teenage driver Richard Leeke Jnr (ATS Ford Fiesta R2) scored his first podium of the season in Mpumalanga and will be looking to go one or two better than his third place last time out. He is currently fifth in the championship with 22,5 points and will have the experienced Rikus Fourie reading the route notes alongside him on this occasion.
Looking to make a significant jump up the score board are Ashley Haigh-Smith and Damian van Ass (Castrol Ford Fiesta R2), who are sixth after the first two rounds with 22 points. A further two points back in seventh place are teenager AC Potgieter and Tommy du Toit (VW Polo).
Also on 20 points in the drivers’ championship is Donovan Meyer (SA Earthworks Ford Fiesta R2), who will be partnered by Stefan Cilliers on this occasion. Others looking to improve their championship positions with better results include Andrew Heine and former S1600 champion Robbie Coetzee (Toyota Auris), who are ninth, and 10th-placed Nico Nienaber and Gert Janse van Rensburg (Toyota RunX).
The possibility of a second successive S1600 championship seems to be slipping away from title holders Clint Weston and Christoff Snyders (Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2), who only managed a Super Rally rules finish and a modest 6,5 points in the opening round and then a non-finish in round two. They have suffered engine management problems which have robbed their Citroen of the power that propelled it to many stage wins last year.
Another youngster keen to impress after a disappointing start to the season is former track racer Ernie van der Walt, who has James Aldridge in the hot seat of the Ferodo Ford Fiesta R2), Chris Coertse and 16-year-old Mari Van der Walt (Electrothread Toyota Etios R2) Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne in a Manitou Group VW Polo.
Marko Himmel/Francois Schoonbee (VW Polo R2) have suffered successive non-finishes so far, but should not be overlooked. They won a round last year and will be keen to revive their challenge this weekend.