The Sasol Rally, generally regarded as the flagship round of the South African Rally Championship, will have a strong local flavour when the event returns to the Mpumalanga Lowveld for the 24th time on April 17 and 18. Not only will the local community benefit from the rally economically, as part of petroleum giant Sasol’s sponsorship they will also be intimately involved with the logistics and organisation surrounding the event. To further localise support for the rally, round two of the SA National Championship and the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship, a Northern Regions Rally Championship round will also form part of the event.
The Northern Regions competitors will join the national teams, including the cream of South Africa’s rally crews, on the stages around Nelspruit on the Saturday, the last day of the national and FIA African event. However, teams participating in the Northern Regions Championship are encouraged to enter both events, as they will be scored for the regional event on Saturday. Scrutineering for the regional event will take place on Friday evening at the Nelspruit Show Grounds and entries for the event will open this week (after the Easter weekend).
As always the Sasol Rally, organised by the South African Motorsport Club (SAM) under the overall direction of clerk of the course Willie Du Plessis, promises a feast of forest special stage racing. The familiar gravel forest roads in the Sabie, Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest, White River and Hendriksdal areas, which are generously made available and expertly maintained by owners York Timbers and the forestry company MTO, will again form the heart of the rally. A total of 15 special stages over the two days will be run; seven on Friday, April 17, and eight on the Saturday.
Five of these will be tarmac stages, including the traditional Sabie and White River town stages on Friday night. On Saturday, spectators will be treated on a double dose of the traditional Nelspruit Super Special, where two cars compete against each other at the same time, and a tarmac stage around the Mbombela soccer stadium. The total stage distance for the rally is 206 kilometres and, with the liaison sections included, around 580 kilometres.
Spectators can already get a first glimpse of the cars on Thursday afternoon, April 16, at the shakedown stage close to Hendriksdal. This stage covers some 6,29 kilometres of special stage 12 and 14 and competitors may repeat this as often as they wish.
Photo: Eddie Simpson and Jeremy Du Plessis currently third in the Northern Regions Championship
Photo credit: Dave Ledbitter