The top factory-entered rally teams will be at loggerheads in the Western Cape over the weekend of 30 and 31 May, when the Somerset West Motor Club-organised Toyota Dealer Cape Rally takes the cream of South Africa’s rally crews to the region for the first time this season. -

- The third round of the Sasol DualFuel National Rally series sees the hometown favourite, former eight-times rally champion Serge Damseaux and the current African Rally Co-drivers’ Champion Robert Paisley, leading the 2003 rally series points table, following a start to finish win on the Total Rally South Africa and second place on the season-opening Hitachi Power Tools Tour Natal event. The Team Castrol Toyota RunX RSi-mounted duo traditionally performs well on home soil, so another Damseaux victory cannot be discounted. The new Castrol RunX is arguably the most powerful car in SA rallying, and the new-car gremlins are rapidly being engineered out, making the latest Toyota rally machine a formidable competitor. -

- Challenging for outright honours is the reigning rally championship pairing of Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd in their class A8 Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Golf 4. Following a win on the opening round in March, Habig was forced to retire on the very last stage of the Total Rally in April with a broken engine, losing a rich haul of vital series’ points in the process. With a 27-point deficit to Damseaux, Habig will fight and his equally capable teammates, Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson in an identical Sasol Golf every inch of the 200km route. -

- Kuun and Hodgson have a non-finish and second overall position on their score sheet this year, and outright victory will boost their championship challenge, where the youngster lags 34 points off the leaders. -

- Class A7 is equally fraught between the Team Total Toyota Corolla RSi of class champions Etienne Lourens/Andre Vermeulen and the factory Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Playas of Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz and Tjaart van der Walt/Mike Burrows. None of the top class contenders finished the opening event in Natal, while Lourens took the class initiatative with a brilliant podium place on the Total. Fekken opened his scorecard as well after a fighting 5th place overall. Van der Walt has two non-finishes out of two events and is desperate to score a good finish. Both Sasol Playas have been plagued by persistent misfires, while Lourens has upped his pace to run consistently in the top five over an event. A thrilling high-speed contest can be expected from this trio. -

- Adding fuel to the fire will be Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Cobus Vrey in the second Team Total Toyota Corolla Rsi. New to the class for 2003, Damseaux has had a torrid year so far, with gearbox failure and an accident on the first two events. Familiar with the Western Cape terrain, he will be determined to put his season on track and could cause an upset in the class battle. -

- Other top class A7 contenders are the exciting Bosch Topcar BMW 320, crewed by Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen. This privately- funded and developed project has been plagued with new car gremlins, but they perform well on the fast stages of the wheat fields, which make up the majority of the route. Kobus Roos/Brendan Nunan field their Hencom Panelbeaters Volkswagen Golf, while Adrian Karth/AN Other will make their season debut in their privateer Shatterprufe Polo Playa. Adding to Volkswagen’s points scoring opportunities is the similar Playa of newcomers Deon/Stella Coleske and the local crew of Andre Cleenwerck/Carl Peskin in another Polo Playa. -

- The Production Car category is numerically the strongest, featuring four-wheel drive, turbocharged machinery, dominated by Subarus. Schalk Burger and Vito Bonafede field their newly-rebodied Bridgestone Sasol DualFuel Impreza WRX Sti, and want to put the disappointment of the Total Rally behind them, after retiring with brake failure caused by being supplied with the wrong specification brake pads. -

- Close behind Burger is the Motion Vehicle Sales Sasol DualFuel Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 of Capetonians Fernando Rueda and Martin Botha, who scored a convincing class win on the previous round on the supercar’s debut. The pairing are taking the 2nd round of the FIA Africa Championship, which they lead after taking 4th overall on the Badplaas event, the Rally of Zimbabwe, the weekend before. -

- Leading class N4 and holding second overall on the championship points table is the talented Gauteng duo of Nicholas Ryan/Brian Carrihill in their ABC Motors Subaru Impreza GT, following two excellent sets of results on the opening pair of events. The current class N4 championship titleholder, Leon Botha and co-driver Richard Clark, field their Pretoria Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, while Botha’s son Jacques, has entered his first Cape Rally and will have Greg Gericke alongside him in his Pretoria Subaru GT. Marius Swart, fresh from back-to-back victories on the opening pair of rallies in the Northern regions rally championship, fields his Mr Mr Midrand Impreza GT with co-driver Jan Sime. -

- The reigning African Rally Championship Driver, Johnny Gemmell, and Greg Godrich will debut their “MY02”- bodied L&J Plant Hire Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. Gemmell won the second Cape Rally of 2001 outright and will be a serious contender for overall honours. Rocky Reyneke/Andre Pheiffer (Hencom Panelbeaters Impreza GT) are 4th overall on the points log after consecutive top ten placings and can be expected to continue their steady points-scoring strategy. -

- The Auto Services Subaru Impreza WRX of Mally Saville/Alec Harris and South Africa’s only all-girl rally team of Lola and Megan Verlaque (Rally Chicks Impreza WRX) also heading for the Zimbabwean event, are capable of finishing well inside the points. The Pretoria-based duo of Visser du Plessis/Thilo von Westernhagen (Lipton Iced Tea Impreza WRX) has come to terms with the technique required for All Wheel Drive and overcame a catalogue of problems on the Total Rally to score a top 10 finish in the ex-Schalk Burger FIA African series-winning machine. -

- The flamboyant Capetonian Werner Koekemoer and Graham Hooper, a perennial crowd-favourite thanks to his exuberant sideways driving style, will return to the fray in their House of Subaru Impreza GT, having rolled in the opening event of the series and missed the second round as the car was still undergoing repairs. -

- The Team Total Toyota Corolla Rsi entry of Craig Trott/Gerhard Snyman should clinch class A6, although the unfortunate pairing were time-barred after wrong slotting on the open section on the second day last time out. Their competition comes from the similar, ex-Damseaux Jr React Corolla Rsi of Andy Haigh Smith/Gerald Brace, who have a combined age of 107. Their maiden class win came last month. -

- Class N3 is a two horse race with the former Production Car racing champion Charl Wilken and multiple Off Road Co-drivers’ champion Robin Houghton in the factory-entered Team Castrol Toyota RunX Rsi. Wilken has learned to drive rapidly on dirt in a very short space of time and is edging up the overall leader board after every event. -

- Their opposition comes from the Friendly Grocers Renault Clio of veteran driver Wiley Harrington/Wille van Straaten, who nearly caused a major upset on the opening round in Natal in March, with a car that was built in just six days. Gearbox problems thwarted their efforts on the second round. -

- Class A5, for modified cars up to 1400cc, is another numerically strong one, dominated by Toyota Tazzes and Volkswagen Chicos. The privateer entry of Dolf Coetzee/Wille Malan head the class points standings from Michael Houghton (Toy Toy Spares Tazz), who will not be making the trip to the Cape for financial reasons. -

- Nkosinathi Nzimande/Fani Fani Meyiwa (Sasol DualFuel Chico) nearly scored their maiden class win on the Total Rally, but were pipped to the post by just 7 seconds, after a frantic fight back by the current class title holders, Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan in their Team Total Toyota Tazz. Visagie and Nzimande can be expected to again challenge for class honours, while the second Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen “Zulu Impi” Chico entry of V8 track star Gugu Zulu/Dave McGregor will mix in with the class chase. Zulu has had two non-finishes this year and is anxious to get some points on the board. -

- Other entries that could spring a surprise are Steven Putter/Kevin Flockhart (Volkswagen Chico), Gregory Bloomer/AN Other (Toy Toy Spares Toyota Tazz) and Allen Worms/Llewellen Edwards (Lessan Tazz). Journalist Michele Lupini/Gary Kingsley-Wilkens return in their Sabat Tazz. -

- Class N2 sees the overall Production Car champion Dean Sanders/Rodney Hering leading the pack in their Team Total Toyota Corolla Rsi, although a torrid start to the year has blunted their challenge this year. The talented CTH Transport Corolla Rsi pairing of Chris de Witt/Janine labuschagne won their class last time out and can repeat their feat, while Robin Goodman/Irma du Plooy (LUK Africa Corolla Rsi) are in the thick of things. All three will face a stern challenge from Capetonian Wessel Venter/Patrick Johnson in their Shell Corolla Rsi. -

- The smallest cars in the field are in class N1, where the Cape crew of Brian and Keith Heine have dominated the class in their Penny Pinchers Volkswagen Chico. Running close behind is the consistent crew of newcomers Hylton Belitzky/Ryan Cheyne in their Protea Hotels Toyota Tazz, while the Team Total Sowetan development team of Vusi Mabanga/Patrick Yende round out the entries. -

- A further 6 crews are expected to compete in the non-points scoring class S20, and will be competing in the second round of the Western Cape Regional Rally Championship. -

- The Toyota Dealers Cape Rally comprises 12 special stages totalling 198km, and starts at 15h00 from Pick n Pay Hypermarket Brackenfell, and takes crews to the Paarl Rock mountain stage. This is followed by a stage in the Stellenbosch forest, which packs over 43 corners in its 17 km length! The crowd-pleasing Pick n Pay Hypermarket (Brackenfell) car park stage rounds out the day’s activities, with the first car due to start at 18h15. -

- An early 06h00 start to Day 2 takes crews along the N2 to Botrivier. The popular ‘watersplash’ stage will be run twice, but away from the river crossing which has caused many engine failures in the past, and has been re-christened “Waterless”. The route continues towards Bredasdorp, before heading back to Cape Town, where the first car is due to finish at the Brackenfell High School at 17h30 on the Saturday afternoon. -

- For more information on the Toyota Dealer Cape Rally and the Sasol DualFuel Rally Championship, log onto the official SA National Rally Website www.sasolrallyscene.co.za. or call 08 22 33 4321. -

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Original article from Car