Damseaux had a full go of the rally in day one, which was the major contributor of them leaving a big gap between him and the rest of the field. Day two they concentrated on keeping the car going and maintaining the lead. He was pleased with the car’s performance and said that the forest stages were fantastic. 'The S2000 is an unknown quantity and it's still early days. We have to see how the car performs at higher altitudes as opposed to the N4 production cars that perform well in these conditions.' he said.

As manufacturers Toyota made a clean sweep getting 20 of the 29 finishing positions. Toyota banners were seen everywhere. McCarthy N1 City had a gazebo up at the notorious water splash whilst Team Castrol handed out bandanas and flags to excited spectators. Spectators cheered as cars came through. One competitor remarked that he saw many red objects waved and spectators jumping up and down as they went through the water splash.

Habig/Judd pushed hard to get closer times to Damseaux/Paisley, but the latter were just too quick. Apart from a broken driveshaft caused by the rough conditions in the forest, Habig said they had a clean run.

Third overall was Nicholas Ryan/Schalk van Heerden in their Bosal Subaru WRX STi. Ryan was very delighted with the result and praised his new navigator Van Heerden saying: 'Schalk made positive calls in stages that I knew were correct calls.' It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Gauteng pair. They hit a rock in stage eight that bent the Subaru's lower control arm. With only 20 minutes allocated for repair time, the team was under pressure to get the job done. They made the necessary repairs and Ryan got out of the service park on time. 'I have never driven this fast before'. Today showed the full capacity of the car and myself' a happy Ryan said.

Jean Pierre Damseaux/Cobus Vrey in their Team Total RunX came fourth overall after a slow puncture and broken left rear rim in stage one. Vrey said that about five kilometers into stage one JP said that the car felt as if it isn't pulling properly. Vrey navigated on skill and savvy after the odometers cut out in the forest due to overheating. JP Damseaux said they started to push very hard on day two, but a 40 second slice out of their (Damseaux’s) time by Ryan put them back one place.

Kuun/Hodgson finished fifth overall. They lost over a minute when after they got embroiled in an on-track fight with Richard Behm/Grant St Clair's SASOL Mitsubishi EVO 8, Hodgson gave the 'turn left into pits' call too late. This resulted in an extra lap around Killarney track. Kuun said he didn't blame Hodgson for who this late call is a rare mistake. They battled a broken cross member in stage three for which they took three-minute lateness for exceeding the 20-minute allocated service time. Kuun said that despite these setbacks, they made the best of a real problem. 'We went from 11th at restart to fifth overall.'

Visser du Plessis/Thilo von Westerhagen in their Metmeister Subaru 2000 came sixth overall after a mishap in stage 3 in Idas Valley had them hit a piece of pipe. Von Westernhagen jumped out to check that all was okay before they continued.

Newcomers to class A7, Charl Wilken/Robin Houghton in their Team Castrol RunX had a clean rally and finished seventh overall. They were happy with the result, since it was their first actual rally in their new class after they switched from N3 to A7. Paul Pfeiffer/Duncan English in their Mitsubishi EVO 6 finished eighth. Ninth overall, Chris de Wit/Patrick Yende in their N3 Team Total RunX were on a charge. Yende said that they had a clean rally and went very well.

Rounding off 10th place were the Rally Chicks Lola and Megan Verlaque in their Bosch Subaru STi. The sisters attacked the rally with fervour, especially the water splash in stage 10. Lola said that she charged the water splash. The all girl team created 'the biggest wave' compared to the other competitors as they went through the water leaving some spectators soaked to the bone.

Retirees who looked set for a place in the top 10 succumbed to the harsh conditions.

Johnny Gemmell/Martie Olivier in their L&J Plants Mitsubishi EVO 7 looked set for second place, but retired with fuel pump difficulties in stage 10. Richard Behm/Grant St Clair in their SASOL Mitsubishi EVO 6 who was third overall at the restart of day two were forced out in stage six when the inter-cooler pipe came off. Fernando Rueda/Martin Botha in their SASOL Mitsubishi EVO 8 retired in stage two with drive train failure.

The rally also had its humorous tales and acts of bravery.

The award for bravery and holding up under a lot of pain goes to Jon Williams in his Gijima Toyota RunX who injured his back in stage one after hitting a contour very hard. Williams said he thinks he wasn’t buckled in properly. Despite the painful discomfort, Jon decided to continue. 'We were leading in class' he said 'so I didn't want to retire'. He wanted to put points on the board after a non-finish in Natal. He and dad Doug continued to lead, but fell prey to stage seven's notorious rock where Fekken went off, a puncture in stage eight and non-functioning odometers in the forest. This pushed them to fourth in class and 25th overall.

The rally ran one stage short with the cancellation of stage five at Steenbras dam due to unforeseen circumstances.

On the humorous side Craig Trott and John Costa in their Team Total Toyota Corolla didn’t have a good start to their rally. Trott explains: ‘I was glad stage one is over. We took time to adapt. John and I had different ideas of stage one and we were just both having one of those days.’ Costa laughingly added that Craig asked him to get the rhythm going, because things felt out of sync.

The explanation of their day made Richard and Natasha Vaughn’s rally sound if they were lucky to escape by a breadth of a hair. A chunk of wood speared through the left light through the fuse box and lodged against the firewall that separates the engine from the crew.

Phillip Kekana/Rod Hering in their SASOL Toyota Tazz had enough to contend with. Kekana said that rally is a total different kettle of fish to track racing where he comes from. This is Kekana’s first rally. He said that he was contemplating calling his team manager for an off-road vehicle to get through stage three that was very rough. Locals throwing stones at them didn’t help matters much.

Teams are preparing for the Total SA Rally that runs from 5 – 6 May in Gauteng. This rally is also one of the rounds of the African Rally Championship.

Original article from Car