Brian Joss –
The top five finishers at the Bela-Bela Rally on Saturday again included Gugu Zulu and Hilton Auffray, continuing Zulu’s streak of fast rally finishes. For Zulu and Auffray the fourth-place finish was hard-fought, considering their seventh place position at the end of day one and marks Zulu’s third consecutive top-five finish.
The 10-stage event saw Henk Lategan and Barry White just outside of the top five, bringing their Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000 home for sixth place overall.
“The Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000s are quick, Gugu and Hilton put on a nice sprint at the end, unfortunately missing a podium by the narrowest of margins,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “For Henk and Barry a puncture in stage one on Friday set them back and they suffered the same fate on day two from which they didn’t quite manage to recover. Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries were consistent during day one in Bela-Bela, finishing third overnight, finishing all stages within the top five and also winning stage six on Saturday.”
Fekken and Arries are happy with their stage six win, even though they were unable to finish the event – losing a potential podium result in the process. The Bela-Bela Rally marked only their second outing together since they were reunited in the Volkswagen Sasolracing team at the Secunda Motor Rally and it was also Fekken’s second outing in the left-hand drive Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000.
“Pierre and I were pushing quite hard, still a bit off the front pair’s pace but comfortably in third on Friday,” says Fekken. “Unfortunately we clipped a tree stump hidden just off-line on one of the corners in stage eight and this basically pulled our suspension out. I’m trying to get used to the left-hand drive as quickly as possible which I think shows in our stage times but we’ve got a little way to go yet.”
For Lategan and White the conditions proved tricky and the puncture in the opening stage affected the rest of their event, with the pair constantly rallying to narrow the deficit caused by their ninth place result in stage one.
“We had high hopes for this rally after the Secunda event,” says Lategan. “A front wheel puncture in stage one and struggling with the loose sand was a real problem. I think in my enthusiasm to get into the rhythm of the rally I might have been over-driving the car a bit, making it even more difficult for me. A second puncture, in stage seven, cost us about three minutes but in the final loop we tried a new setup and the times improved considerably.”