Round 4 of the Sasol DualFuel(tm) South African National Rally Championship The 12th Sasol Rally, arguably the most popular event on the South African rally calendar, with competitors and spectators alike, takes place from 19 - 21 June in its traditional Sabie, White River and Nelspruit forest and town stages. Again a massive entry of 71 teams has been confirmed. -

- Run by the South African Motorsport Club (SAM) by the capable and highly experienced Clerk of the Course Willie du Plessis, the Sasol Rally attracts thousands of spectators along the compact and easily accessible route, which this year comprises eighteen special stages. With traditional town stages in Sabie, a new 7-kilometer dash up Long Tom Pass, and White River on the Friday and the Subaru Super Special in the heart of Nelspruit early on the Saturday morning. The Sasol Rally brings the action to the people more than any other event in the country. -

- The Sasol Rally 2003 will end with the final stage crossing into the events arena at the Nelspruit Showgrounds at approximately 16h30 on Saturday, a unique to Sasol feature, where spectators can watch the action from the comfort of the surrounding grandstands, accompanied by a wide variety of family entertainment and R8 000 worth of prizes for lucky entrance ticket holders. -

- Heading the 2003 Sasol DualFuel(tm) Rally Championship points standings going into the 4th round of the series is the factory entered Team Castrol Toyota RunX Rsi of former eight-times SA driver's champion Serge Damseaux and the current African Rally Co-driver's champion Robert Paisley. -

- Damseaux and Paisley have two outright victories to their credit, including the recent Toyota Dealer Cape Rally as well as a runner up spot, and the Castrol RunX is arguably the best car in the field at the moment. With more development work in the pipeline, further victories can be expected and the 34 points advantage enjoyed by the Toyota pairing may well be sufficient to add a ninth title to Damseaux's long list of achievements. -

- The reigning SA Rally Champions, Jan Habig and Douglas Judd, driving their Sasol DualFuel(tm) Volkswagen Golf 4, have experienced a less than ideal start to their season. Their year started with a victory on the Hitachi Power Tools Tour Natal Rally in March, but was followed by an engine failure in the last 300 metres of the last stage of the Total Rally South Africa. -

- A fighting second place in the Cape event at the end of May, after experiencing differential problems, saw Habig and Judd claw their way back into contention and leap up to 2nd place on the championship table. The factory Volkswagen squad will want to make amends for their disappointing Total outing as well as to excel on their second 'home event'. -

- Less fortunate this year is the second factory-entered Sasol Golf of Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson. Two engine failures in three outings have blunted the challenge of the driver who was fighting for last year's title on the final round. Kuun, then co-driven by Pierre Arries, was the winner of the Sasol Rally 2002 and will hope that history will repeat itself this year. -

- Heading the class A7 challenge is the Team Total entry of Etienne Lourens and Andre Vermeulen in the Team Total Toyota Corolla Rsi. Lourens has scored two consecutive podium placings this season, and led all the rallies to date at some point of the events. This particular A7 Corolla is widely regarded as the definitive specification of its genre, and is entirely capable of causing an upset in the Sasol stages. -

- Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Cobus Vrey are also equipped with a class A7 Team Total Toyota Corolla RSi. Although Damseaux only graduated to class A7 this season, his competitive 4th overall on the Cape Rally is indicative of him getting to grips with the increased power. -

- The Sasol DualFuel(tm) factory-entered Volkswagen Polo Playas of Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz and Tjaart van der Walt/Mike Burrows have had a torrid start to the season, with just one finish out of six starts between them. The experience of the Volkswagen Motorsport squad will overcome the various problems experienced, and both crews will be hoping for a major turnaround in fortune, starting on the Sasol Rally. -

- Other runners in class A7 include the exciting but under-developed Topcar Bosch BMW 320i of Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen, who have yet to finish an event this year, and Kobus Roos/Brendan Nunan in their Hencom Motorsport Volkswagen Golf. Tony Ball/Dean Redelinghuys (Bulwer Park Volkswagen Polo Playa) will have their second event of the year. -

- Adrian Karth/Rikus Fourie make their season debut in their Shatterprufe Volkswagen Polo Playa, while Deon and Stella Coleske are making the trip from Port Elizabeth with their MCK Transport Polo Playa. The "Fifties Club" team of John Brewin/Terry Porter add variety with their Opel Kadett, and surprised the rally fraternity with their maiden class A7 victory on the Tour Natal Rally in March. -

- Numerically the strongest class, and the vehicles most likely to follow the A8 cars home, are the Production Car class N4, for four-wheel drive and turbocharged machinery, where 14 entries are ready to fight for class and overall honours. -

- Leading the category for near standard cars is the young duo of Nicholas Ryan/Brian Carrihill in their ABC Motors Subaru Impreza GT. The talented youngsters have finished all three rallies this year inside the top seven and find themselves in 3rd spot on the overall championship table, just four points adrift of Habig and Judd respectively. -

- Taking the fight to the top class A8 factory entered cars are the two meanest and aggressive looking cars in the field, belonging to Schalk Burger/Vito Bonafede (Bridgestone Sasol DualFuel(tm) Subaru Impreza WRX Sti) and Fernando Rueda (Motion Vehicles Sales/Sasol DualFuel(tm) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7), who will be partnered by Piet Swanepoel on this event, as regular co-driver, Martin Botha, has business commitments in South America. -

- Burger and seven times co-driver's champion Bonafede opened their scorecard with a magnificent podium placing, adding a non-finish and sixth overall to their tally. Rueda and Botha by contrast, have two non-finishes and a class win and 4th overall to show for their season to date, although Rueda/Botha won both the Total Rally and Dunlop Zimbabwe Rally rounds of the African Rally Championship earlier this year. -

- Johnny Gemmell and Greg Godrich (L&J Plant Services Subaru Impreza WRX Sti) started the season late, and took control of the Total Rally before retiring from the lead on the final day, and Gemmell will be aiming to re-establish himself at the head of the field. The Subaru has also been re-bodied with the latest 2003 - model Impreza sheet metal. -

- Other top class runners are the current class N4 drivers' champion Leon Botha/Richard Clark (Pretoria Subaru Impreza WRX Sti). Botha re-started his career after a five year break on the 2002 Sasol Rally and went on to win the title, so anything is possible at this stage of the season. -

- Jacques Botha, son of Leon and co-driver Henry Dearlove Jr, will drive a brand new Minolta Silverton Spar Subaru Impreza GT and will add a unique father and son element to the "Sasol'. This car will start the rally untested as the build programme only commenced two weeks prior to the rally. -

- Callie van der Merwe/Gideon Trollip are a surprise entry in a Subaru Impreza GT. Van der Merwe has proven quick in the past in his ex-works Daewoo Lanos a few years ago and rallies a stunningly quick ex-works Nissan Exa in the historical section of the Northern Regions rally series, and is still on top of his game. -

- Rocky Reyneke/Andre Pheiffer (Hencom Motorsport Impreza GT), Visser du Plessis/Thilo von Westernhagen (Lipton Iced Tea Impreza WRX Sti), Mally Saville/Alec Harris (Auto Services Subaru Impreza WRX), Lola/Megan Verlaque (Rally Chicks Impreza WRX) and Jose Ferreira/Miguel da Costa (Italian Panelbeaters Impreza GT) have all scored well and most have earned top ten placings on the three events run so far, and will be aiming to add to their points tally, upholding Subaru's second place on the all-important Manufacturers' Championship log. -

- Rounding out the burgeoning class is the lone Colplast Ford Escort Cosworth of Colin Wilson/Geoff Tyrer. Wilson caused the most drama on the 2002 Sasol Rally when his car expired just 500 metres from the finish ramp, and the crew were forced to push the heavy machine the last few metres. -

- Class A6 is the preserve of Team Total's Craig Trott/Gerhard Snyman (Toyota Corolla Rsi) although they will face stiff competition from the likes of Jaco Venter/JB van Nieuwenhuizen in their similar Venter Motors Corolla and Nico Nienaber/Marius Steenkamp (Hencom Panelbeaters Toyota Conquest). -

- Veterans Andy Haigh Smith/Gerald Brace (React Toyota Corolla Rsi) and the quick duo of Schalk Burger Jr/Wimpie van Greunen (G&J Panelbeaters Corolla Rsi) are also expected to be in the race for class honours. -

- The 1400cc class A5 is a close fought affair with the current class champions Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan (Team Total Toyota Tazz) expected to hold their own against the Sasol DualFuel(tm) Volkswagen Chico-mounted "Impi Team" of Gugu Zulu/Dave McGregor and Nkosinathi Nzimande/Fani Fani Meyiwa. Zulu, a track racing star in his own right, scored his maiden class A5 victory on the recent Cape Rally and enjoyed the sensation enough to want more victories to celebrate. -

- Dolf Coetzee/Willie Malan (Toyota Tazz) head the class A5 championship by a single point from Michael Houghton/Bryn Doherty, absent from this event, so all entrants have everything to play for. Natalians Steve Putter/Kelvin Flockhart (Volkswagen Chico) are gathering pace with every outing and are ready to challenge the established front-runners should they stumble in the tricky Mpumulanga forests. -

- Gregory Bloomer/Greg Gericke (Toy Toy Toyota Tazz) are expected to mix it for class honours, while the Sabat Toyota Tazz of Cars in Action publisher Michele Lupini/Gary Kingsley Williams needs more reliability to mount a mid season attack on the established class leaders. Allen Worms/Llewellen Fourie are back in their Lessan Tazz, along with Salie/Armand du Toit (President Panelbeaters Tazz). Rudi Venter, a journalist from Topcar magazine and Jan Sime, a TV journalist, return to the fray with the Topcar Automark Tazz. -

- Class N3 is a two horse race between the factory-entered Team Castrol Toyota RunX Rsi of track racer Charl Wilken and Off Road co-driver's champion Robin Houghton, who have scored a hat trick of class wins so far. Their competition comes from the Friendly Grocer Renault Clio 2.0 of veteran rally driver Wiley Harrington/Willie van Straaten. This car made a surprise debut this year after taking just six days to build, and has been quick out of the box. -

- The defending overall Production Car Champion, Dean Sanders and co-driver Rodney Hering scored their first finish of the year last time out in their class N2 Team Total Toyota Corolla Rsi. They will face stiff competition from Richard Behm/Grant St Clair in an identical Palbin Corolla, the Cape Town pairing winning their class on their first outing of the year, last month. -

- The ever consistent and under-rated Chris de Wit/Janine Labuschagne (Etienne Lourens' sister) can be expected to bring their CTH Transport Corolla Rsi to the finish and score a healthy points haul. Locals AJ/Juanita Pretorius will want to impress their home fans in their Jobmates Toyota Corolla Rsi, having learned their rallycraft in the regional series. -

- Class N1 for near-standard cars with an engine capacity of up to 1400cc has seen the Cape- domiciled brothers Brian/Keith Heine score five class wins out of five events (including the final two events from 2002) in their Penny Pinchers Volkswagen Chico, and start the Sasol Rally as the overwhelming favourites for class honours. -

- Challenging the Heine brothers is the Protea Hotels LUK Africa Toyota Tazz of Hylton belitzky/Ryan Cheyne and the Team Total Sowetan development team of Vusi Mabanga/Patrick Yende in an identical Toyota Tazz. -

- Rounding out the field is an entry of nineteen non-points scoring class S20 competitors, who are all from the Northern Regions and KwaZulu Natal Regional Rally Championships. -

- Some immaculate cars will do battle for the joy of rallying, including the magnificent ex-works Ford Escort BDA Mk2 of Giovanni Piazza Musso/Richard Leeke, a Mk1 Toyota Corolla crewed by John/Cherry Saunders and the Datsun 160U of Johan and Felicity Prins. The hybrid 2 -litre Datsun 1200GX of Lukas van der Merwe/Harry Peacock is another spectacular car to watch. -

- Rally enthusiasts who yearn for the old days of rear-wheel drive, sideways rallying will be thrilled to see these 'old-timers' being driven hard in competition once again. -

- More modern offerings in class S20 include 20-valve Toyota Tazzes, an Alfa GTV 2.0, a host of older model Volkswagen Golfs and a Mini Cooper. -

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Original article from Car