It was a tough test for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle, when they took on the 2017 Secunda Rally, round 3 of the South African National Rally Championship this weekend. The pair started conservatively on Friday May 19, during the opening stages of the event.
Brian Joss – Even so, they lagged only three seconds behind local lad AC Potgieter (Volkswagen) after the first five stages.
“Friday’s stages were a nice mix of tar and gravel, and mostly quite short,” said Botterill after completing the rally. “With a couple of them taking place in car parks, we decided not to take undue risks. To be just three seconds behind was perfect for us, as we didn’t have to open the road on Day Two.”
But the Secunda Rally has developed a reputation as a tough event, and 2017 proved to be no different.
“We attacked from the get-go on Saturday,” said Botterill. “We pushed really hard, and within the two opening stages, we had not only taken back the time but also built up a lead of almost a minute. Things were looking up.”
The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew had to race through several deep water splashes on the opening stages of Saturday, and even though their Toyota Etios handled the water without immediate problems, some damage was done.
“When we reached the start of Stage 9, the car simply wouldn’t start,” explained Botterill. Unfortunately, the rules preclude crews from working on their cars inside the time control, and so Botterill/Vacy-Lyle had to wait for the stage to start before they could open the bonnet to fix their car.
It cost them the best part of two minutes, as well as the lead of the rally.
But the pair tackled the next couple of stages with the bit between their teeth, and won Stage 10 convincingly. Stage 11 started in the same vein, but a broken gear linkage mid-stage put paid to their efforts.
“It was devastating, as we had to drive almost 20 km stuck in first gear,” said Botterill of Stage 11.
The pair made it to the final service park of the rally, and the car was quickly repaired – but the damage had been done. All that remained of the 2017 Secunda Rally were two short stages, and despite recording the second-fastest time on the penultimate stage, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew had to settle for third place by the time the rally ended.
“Third wasn’t what we were aiming for, but we’re certainly happy to bag the points,” concluded Botterill, who still leads the championship standings for 2017.
The Secunda Rally was eventually won by Lee Rose and former Toyota Gazoo Racing SA navigator Elvéne Coetzee in a classic Ford Escort. However, Rose/Coetzee are campaigning in the classic category, while the SA National Rally Championship currently consists of Class R2 1600 race cars.
First in Class R2 was former Toyota driver Chris Coertse (Mazda), with Richard Leeke (Ford) taking second place.
The next round of the seven-round 2017 SA National Rally Championship is the Algoa Rally, in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, which is slated for the weekend of July 21 and 22.