A total of 38 teams – 20 national competitors and 18 ARC 50K contenders –will come under starters orders when the streamlined and more dynamic Volkswagen Rally gets under way in the Nelson Mandela Bay area on Friday. The 33rd running of the rally, round five of the 2015 South African Rally Championship, will feature 12 competition stages in a tighter, more compact format in and around the Friendly City in the Eastern Cape Province. It is also quite appropriate that two national rally stalwarts who returned to the Volkswagen Sasolracing team this year, Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries, will be the first crew to start the rally in their VW Polo S2000.
They will be followed by the Castrol Team Toyota pair Giniel De Villiers and Carolyn Swan (Toyota Yaris), Ernie Van Der Walt and Greg Godrich (Toyota Yaris) and youngster in the Volkswagen Sasolracing team, Henk Lategan, with navigator Barry White. Next up will be the two leading championship contenders; defending champs Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris), fresh from their first victory of the season in the Bela-Bela Motor Rally, and the championship leaders and runners-up in Bela-Bela, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Performance Fiesta).
Japie Van Niekerk/Gerhard Snyman (NAD Ford Fiesta), who finished on the podium in Limpopo, and the Volkswagen Sasolracing pairing of Gugu Zulu/Hilton Auffray (VW Polo), will be seventh and eighth on the road. Zulu, who recently became a father, is currently lying third in the overall championship after consistent performances in the first half of the season. In the hotly contested S1600 class the two Toyota crews of Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk Van Heerden (Fragram Tools Etios) and Guy Botterill/ Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Etios) will lead the way from the Auto Pavilion.
With class victories in Bela-Bela and Secunda Botterill/Vacy-Lyle now lead the championship – four points clear of Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden. Richard Leeke Jnr/ Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fiesta R2) will be flagged off next, followed by Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (Manitou Group VW Polo R2) and Chad Van Beurden/Nico Swartz (Van Beurden Transport Ford Fiesta R2). The rally, organised by the Algoa Rally Club with the support of Volkswagen South Africa, will comprise 200km of gravel stages – six to be run today, with the balance on Saturday.
Stages one and five today are close to the Glendore Quarry turn-off with stages two and four at Jachtvlakte. Spectating for stage three – Mission Road – is at the Port Elizabeth Oval Track Raceway with the final stage of the day at Aldo Scribante Raceway at 18:00.