Brian Joss –
Ten of the planned 12 Volkswagen Rally stages took place in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas on Friday and Saturday. In a highly demanding national rally environment, the inclement weather of the weekend added an extra factor for rally competitors.
“I am proud of the Volkswagen Sasolracing team members for their performance under some really adverse conditions,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “The service crews performed their task well, made sure the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000s were ready to compete throughout the event and displayed good camaraderie in the face of some terrible weather and working conditions, their efforts helping Volkswagen win the Manufacturer’s Award at the Volkswagen Rally.”
“In motorsport there is a saying that you cannot win an event that you sponsor and the Volkswagen Rally seems to prove it. The Volkswagen Sasolracing team rallied hard, but were just not quite able to hold their competition at bay.”
Out in the first stage Gugu Zulu and Hilton Auffray were in good form, clocking in at the end of that stage for fourth place, then posting fifth spot for stage two.
“We always look forward to the Volkswagen Rally,” says Zulu. “We had a good start in stage one, a major moment though saw us lose a lot of time, but the technicians did a great job getting the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000 repaired and we did some decent times. In the last stage today Henk and Barry managed to sneak past us and we lost a place to them.”
Zulu’s teammates Henk Lategan and Barry White posted good stage times during the Volkswagen Rally, posting seven stage times within the top five, ultimately finishing the event in seventh overall.
“We started the rally a little conservatively,” says Lategan. “It was, however the flat wheel and damage we got in stage two that really posed a problem. We hit a rock or something and bent the wheel. We couldn’t get it off to change the tyre. That cost us around five minutes, in just stage two of the rally, and it was very difficult to try and recover from there.”
Lategan and White did, however, recover well from that problem. During the second day of the Volkswagen Rally they charged from a deficit of nearly one-and-a-half minutes behind Zulu and Auffray to 28 seconds ahead at the end of stage 10.
For Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries their third outing together since a return to national rally competition together proved to be a consistent performance. By the end of the first day of the rally the duo were fifth overall in the standings. By the end of stage 10 on day two, they had shown they were quick enough to hold on to that fifth place.
“It was a very good event, as every Volkswagen Rally proves to be,” says Fekken. “We had a character-building weekend together and Pierre and I pushed hard for fast stage times. We can’t quite match the pace of the leaders yet, but we are adapting well to the left-hand drive and will reach our goal sooner rather than later.”
The next outing for the Volkswagen Sasolracing rally team is the Cullinan Rally which takes place on Friday and Saturday August 14 and 15.