The 2002 South-Africa Group N4 Rally Champion, Leon Botha, is ready and as always willing to get going during the Hitachi Tour Natal Rally in Durban next weekend, round one of the 2003 MSA South African Rally Championship. -

- Editor and owner of the very popular RallyStar.co.za web site, Botha says 2003 is going to be one of the most interesting years in rally history. -

- "Rallying in South Africa will follow the worldwide trend and grow into a major sport. Last year events drew more and more spectators and in their eagerness to get to the action, they became a problem to the organizers. This is a 'nice' problem that will be appreciated by most other sports, but their safety is a concern. It is interesting to note that security companies have not yet picked up this little marketing tip, by offering their services and a bit of advertising money to event organisers. Just think of the publicity? -

- "The only part of this great sport that is not growing is sponsorship. Companies such as Sasol, Total, Castrol, Toyota, Volkswagen and Subaru are very involved, but we need at least 10 more big sponsors to develop the marketing potential of this sport properly. The latent business of rallying is about to come to the fore, and the company that wakes up to this will benefit, as getting involved now, is still relatively cheap. -

- "The top class A8 teams, that of Jan Habig/Douglas Judd and Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson in Volkswagen Golfs, and then Serge Damseaux/Robert Paisley will get some competition from the top Class N4 drivers. The big N4 contingent should, on paper, be led by Fernando Rueda in his state of the art Mitsubishi EVO 7 and later 8. He could expect some serious competition from Schalk Burger who will have a new car and also apparently a new navigator in Vito Bonafede. This means that two of Serge Damseaux's ex-navigators will be siding with the competition." -

- Botha's Subaru Impreza should have the right goodies fitted to it by the Total Rally of South-Africa this year, and he should then be more completive than last year. -

- Botha said: "Rueda has actually thrown down the gauntlet to the Class A8 drivers, while he did not really have a lot to back him up. We put enough pressure on him last year in a stock standard restricted Subaru to cause him to break the car on a couple of events. This year he is aiming even higher, which suits me down to the ground. The Mitsubishi however is in a class of its own, and an average driver behind that car's wheel should be able to stay ahead of anything South-Africa has to offer." -

- Botha added: "Visser du Plessis should do very well in the ex-Schalk Burger Subaru Impreza WRC he bought, and another younger driver, Nicolas Ryan, will also be up there between the top drivers. A dark horse is Werner Koekemoer from the Cape. -

- "I would love to see what would happen if the group N4 cars were fitted with restrictors, competition suspensions, 15" wheels and protective guards. Nothing else! That is what we drove last year, and why Subaru Pretoria could advertise that buyers could actually get more than what they saw on the rally scene, as the Subaru Pretoria rally car was considerably slower than a standard STi. Such a format would take care of some of these million Rand plus Andretti's who can not even drive the car to its full potential, but are able to win events. -

- "We will give the title defense our best shot, but unfortunately will be limited by a very restricted budget if we do not manage to secure substantial sponsors soon."

Original article from Car