The Total Rally on 8-9 March saw the Volkswagen Sasolracing team have mixed results, on what was the first round of the 2013 South African National Rally Championship. Decisively won by South African rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in their Ford Fiesta S2000, the highest-placed Volkswagen Sasolracing car in Kwazulu Natal was the Polo Vivo S2000 of Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin, which finished fifth. Further down the field, Megan and Oliver Verlaque completed the event 15th, and sixth in the S1600 class. It was a disappointing event for the flagship squad of Volkswagen Polo S2000s, though, with one car retiring, and two others involved in a serious incident.
Former champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson crashed out on Friday’s stage three, while battling for second place with the Fiesta S2000 of Jan Habig and Robert Paisley. The Polo was severely damaged after rolling end over end several times and the pair were taken to hospital for observation. It was slightly better news for Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries. After competing in the Super Rally, they went off the road on Friday’s first stage and were unable to continue. After setting second-fastest times in Saturday’s first two stages, they lost time with a puncture on stage 12. The pair finished 18th overall and 11th in S2000, and it was a frustrating reminder of the Polo 6R S2000’s potential.
In the third Sasolracing Polo S2000, 18 year-old Henk Lategan and his co-driver Barry White impressed in their debut, finishing third on Friday and recovering from contact with a concrete tunnel wall and a brief grass fire to finish 13th in S2000. Their incident saw the cancellation of stage eight, the first of Saturday’s six gravel stages, as officials and bystanders extinguished the blaze caused by the car’s hot exhaust setting fire to the dry undergrowth. Lategan marked himself as a champion of the future with a spirited fight-back which saw him take the honours from his more illustrious rivals on stage 12 on his way to 23rd overall.
Other top 20 Polo Total Rally finishers included the S1600 machine of Chad van Beurden and Henry Dearlove, and the S2000 Challenge car of Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie. The newly-developed Polo 6R 1600 Group N Manitou Group-sponsored of Paul Franken and Henry Kohne unfortunately failed to finish. The next round of the South African Rally Championship, the Sasol Rally, is at Mpumalanga on 19-20 April 2013.