Very wet and very muddy stages welcomed competitors on the Volkswagen Rally on 13-14 July. The fourth round of the 2012 South African National Rally Championship took place on the Eastern Cape, and severe weather conditions saw the issuing of flood alerts with possible emergency evacuations mooted. Not ideal conditions for the BP Volkswagen Polo S2000s on their home event, and as the planned fast, action-packed stages became slippery and treacherous, the trio had little else to do but persevere until the end of the event.
The top pairing of Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson pulled out all the stops over the two-day event, and finished fifth overall, despite numerous stage cancellations, and a disappointing 13th place finish at the end of day one. ‘We had high hopes of a good performance in the Eastern Cape,’ said Kuun. ‘When the event turned out to be quite as demanding as this, with the rallying taking place under such severe conditions, we had to keep our wits about us. I think we’ve proved yet again that the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 is a good car, we just have to find the combination to unlock that potential.’
The duo of Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries didn’t have as much luck. Good stage times were not enough to keep them in the fight and they had to accept an eighth place overall position by the end of the event. Hans Weijs Jnr and Björn Degandt meanwhile were excited at the prospect of competing in front of the team’s home crowd, but were unprepared for the conditions they faced on the event, rallying their new-for-2012 Polo S2000 to a 12th place finish.
‘The stages looked fantastic on the preview,’ Weijs reported. ‘This looked like our kind of event and we were really looking forward to it. But, it turned out to be our toughest event yet here in South Africa and probably the one we most want to forget. We had made our notes before the event, but with the change in the conditions we had new instructions issued and we couldn’t get these to match our notes properly.’
Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray were very happy with their performance on the Volkswagen Rally, despite being forced to finish the event under Super Rally conditions. ‘This event saw us use our brand new Polo Vivo S1600,’ explained Verlaque. ‘It is just such a change. The new gearbox, the sequential shift, the feel of the car, everything about it is just so much better. We had a problem on Friday and had to re-enter the event as a Super Rally competitor on Saturday. The potential in the new car is obvious and we cannot wait to tackle the next event and see how well we do!’
‘This was our first opportunity to contest the new 6R-based Volkswagen Polo S2000 under wet conditions,’ said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. ‘The events this year have thrown just about every kind of environment at us, but nothing even close to what we experienced this weekend. Finishing in the top five on an event that saw three stages cancelled due to the weather, and with every other stage offering extremely low grip and very little control at speed, shows that we have a good package in the new car,’ Rowe continued. ‘Our focus now is on taking the data we have collected and translating that into a performance advantage for the next round of the series.’