New Challenge And Cup Series To Improve SA Rallying

National championship special stage rallying is looking to be more competitor and spectator-friendly in 2015 with the introduction of a new Challenge and an entry-level Cup series.  “We have great plans for making rallying more accessible to competitors as well as spectators in 2015.  A new Challenge and entry-level series will be introduced to attract more entrants and hopefully more sponsors,” said Richard Leeke, President of the National Rally Commission of Motorsport South Africa.  For the 2015 season, set to kick off with the Tour Natal Rally in KwaZulu-Natal on 27 and 28 February, the premier S2000 class for modified, normally-aspirated, four-wheel drive cars with engines not exceeding two litres will remain unchanged.

“However, the existing S2000 Challenge – for earlier generation older specification four-wheel drive cars – will be replaced by a new Challenge that this year will be run as a pilot series,” Leeke said.  This new NRC4 Challenge will offer existing S2000 Challenge and N4 cars (4WD with turbocharged engines not exceeding two litres and limited modifications) the opportunity to compete within a series with less restrictive and more cost efficient regulations.  “As eligible cars will not be required to comply with the homologated documentation, we hope to encourage competitors with older cars not eligible under the previous regulations to enter.  The goal is to not pre-determine regulations and limit potential entries but rather have open regulations and have an entry verification process.  The regulations will be adapted and updated as the class grows,” Leeke said.

The S1600 class for two-wheel drive normally aspirated cars with engines not exceeding 1.6-litres was successfully implemented and again vigorously contested last year.  This Two Wheel Drive Championship – built around FIA-spec R2B cars such as the Ford Fiesta and the South African homologated cars like the VW Polo and Toyota Etios – will continue virtually unchanged.  Besides this a new entry level series, named Rally Cup, will be introduced this year.  Rally Cup will primarily be aimed at rally rookies and younger competitors and cars close to the R1 specification of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the world controlling body of motor sport.

The cars will be built to withstand local rally conditions, running a standard motor and drivetrain.  It should also be possible to upgrade them to R2/S1600 specification.  “Technical specifications for this class are currently being finalised by the NRC Technical Panel.  The Rally Cup is specifically designed for less experienced crews to gain confidence in the lower echelons of rallying and compete in their own challenge,” said Leeke, a former national co-driver champion.

According to him this is part of the NRC’s vision to create a ‘ladder of succession’ to enable competitors in this class to graduate to S1600 and then to either NRC4 Challenge or the premier S2000 class.  He also confirmed that the NRC2 class, started last year to incorporate older pre-2000 4-cylinder two wheel-drive cars, will remain, “There are many older, yet competitive rally cars still in South Africa.  We hope to attract these crews and cars to add to the rally spectacle…”  While much progress has been made in terms of media exposure, – the web site and the popular free SMS results service that allows a large audience to follow each event special stage by special stage, the sport needs more support.

“For us to take the sport of rallying to the next level we need more money.  While we’re very grateful to our existing sponsors – Dunlop, Ford, Sasol, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Polokwane– we still have three of our eight rounds as well as the overall championship unsponsored.  We’re working hard on rectifying this. We trust the introduction of the new challenge and entry-level series will contribute in making rallying an attractive proposition for marketers,” he said.  There will be eight rounds in this year’s series with a team’s seven best results counting towards the championship.