26 October 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Kuun and Hodgson claim 2010
Sasol South African Rally Championship

The BP Volkswagen rally team are celebrating their sixth consecutive national rally title after the Toyota Dealer Rally Gauteng on 15-16 October. The event was the final of an eight-round national championship that has proved one of the most punishing and challenging in recent memory. Not content with haranguing competitors throughout the year, the 2010 season had a final challenge and finish in store. The drama started early on day one when, in the third stage of the event, the championship leaders crashed out of contention. Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson were less than 500 metres into stage three, a reverse of the fearsome Gerotek Hillclimb course, when they went sliding off the stage into the bush, bringing their championship campaign to an abrupt end.

The focus of the event then shifted to Kuun and Hodgson’s rivals Johnny Gemmell and Drew Sturrock in their S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris. With a 21-point difference between the two, Gemmell and Sturrock needed to win the event if Gemmell was to win the championship. Tension throughout the service park ran high as the stage reports came in. It wasn’t going to go Gemmell’s way though as the two Ford entries were fighting hard and eventually claimed a one-two podium with Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich claiming victory and Conrad Rautenbach and Peter Marsh in second place. Gemmell’s teammate Leeroy Poulter and his navigator, Robert Paisley, claimed third place while Gemmell and Sturrock finished fourth.

This result was not good enough to oust Kuun from the top spot in the 2010 Sasol South African Rally Championship – even if it marked the first time since the start of the 2009 season that there was not a Volkswagen Polo in BP Ultimate livery on the podium. ‘This rally is yet more proof that a championship is won by all the work done during the year, you don’t win a championship at the last event,’ says Kuun. ‘It has been a magnificent year for us in the BP Volkswagen team and coming into the final event with a 21 point lead is almost unheard of. Our BP Volkswagen S2000 Polo has completed 30 rallies faultlessly and it has been 100 rallies since our last rally elimination due to human error.’

According to the new South African national rally champion, Enzo Kuun, the 2010 championship has been one of the hardest ever due to the depth of competition – S2000 class is now the biggest single class in the national competition and stage times between the top competitors are separated by seconds, and even fractions of a seond. Kuun’s co-driver, Guy Hodgson, had already claimed the 2010 South African national navigators’ title at the penultimate event in the Western Cape last month. Rallies are won because of the support a team receives from its technical crew and the work done both in the BP Volkswagen and Vivo Sport camps are what make the rally victories a reality.

With Kuun and Hodgson out of the event in the Gauteng rally, it fell to their teammates, Jan Habig and Ralph Pitchford and Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries to fly the flag for the BP Volkswagen team. The final stage of day one saw Habig and Pitchford complete two more laps of the Zwartkops race circuit due to additional pages in Pitchford’s route guide. This added to their total time for the day and put them on the back foot for the rest of the event. While additional time on their day’s total saw them relegated virtually to the back of the S2000 field for day two, they rose to the challenge and rallied their BP Volkswagen S2000 Polo to an eighth place finish by the end of the second day.

For Fekken and Arries it was a flat tyre that hampered their chances early on day two. It was soon after the start of stage seven, the second stage for day two, that they clipped an embankment, the impact forcing the tyre off the wheel. Faced with another 18km of gravel on just a rim, their progress was significantly slowed on what are otherwise fast stages. This saw them embroiled in an almost impossible fight for the rest of the event but fight they did – to finish just behind Gemmell and Sturrock claiming fifth place.

And what of the other rallying Polos? Namibian Jaco van Dyk and co-driver Des de Fortier brought their S2000 Polo home ninth overall after a hard drive. Every rally this season was new for the Windhoek transport operator, who found the tarmac stages interesting. Traction and set-up problems were only cured by the second last stage, too late to make up any more places. Meanwhile, Theuns Joubert and Carl Peskin in another rallying Polo took a cautious approach to the mountain and tarmac stages, ending Friday’s stages 12th overall, some four minutes off the lead. A steady run on the gravel stages saw the Mokopane businessman edge up the order by a minute to end 10th overall.

Nicholas Ryan and Geoff Tyrer brought their S2000 Jonnesway/RCF Polo home 11th overall, just one second behind Joubert. The car suffered a failed battery at the end of the first day, but armed with a new power source on Saturday morning, the pair lost over a minute after an overshoot on the first super special stage when the Polo refused to select reverse gear. Evan Hutchison and Elvéne Coetzee brought their Motorite car home 14th after incurring a five-minute penalty to change the steering rack on the first day. Gavin Cronjé and Henry Dearlove ended their season in the first stage when the Easy Life Kitchens Polo stopped with a shock absorber that punched through the turret top, the second such incident in two events. In the A7 class Gugu Zulu and Cindi Harding raced home to another class victory at the final rally of 2010, claiming 15th place overall.

The GC Diesel Volkswagen Polo Vivo of Morné Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie was a little erratic on day one in Gauteng. The crew struggled with the car which seemed to be suffering with problems that refused diagnosis. Some hard work in the service park during the first day saw the team battling only with power steering on day two. Janse van Rensburg substituted muscle power for power steering when it was needed and went on to win the A5 class in the new-for-2010 Vivo. This puts him in second overall in class A5 for the season. It also marked the second consecutive class victory for the Polo Vivo – it was also only the second outing for the car.

[Source: Volkswagen South Africa/Sasol Motorsport]
[Images: David Ledbitter for QuickPic]

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