document : Rautenbach and Klinger’s Ford Fiesta victorious in thrilling Total Tour Natal Rally


Rautenbach and Klinger’s Ford Fiesta victorious in thrilling Total Tour Natal Rally
information supplied by: SA Rally Internet 26 March 2011

Rautenbach and Klinger’s Ford Fiesta victorious in thrilling Total Tour Natal Rally

Zimbabwean privateer Conrad Rautenbach and French co-driver Nicolas Klinger (G-Fuel Ford Fiesta) emerged victorious after a heart-stopping battle with multiple former champion Jan Habig and Robert Paisley in a factory BP Volkswagen Polo in the closing stages of the Total Tour Natal Rally on Saturday afternoon.

The gap at the end of the opening round of the South African national rally championship, run over two days and 14 special stages on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, was just 8,2 seconds after 14 special stages and 155 km of mainly gravel road racing, according to the provisional results. Third, 44,1 seconds behind the winners, were Habig’s factory VW team-mates and defending national champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in another VW Polo.

Former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries were fourth in another BP VW Polo, 2 min 6,8 sec behind the winning Ford. Privateers Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Carolyn Swan were fifth in a Team Total Toyota RunX, 21,4 sec ahead of Nicholas Ryan and Geoff Tyrer in a privateer VW Polo.

Making up the top 10, all of whom were competing in the premier Super 2000 class for two-litre four-wheel drive cars, were Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey in the second Sasol Ford Fiesta, stage rally debutant and 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Ralph Pitchford in the fourth of the factory VWs, privateers Japie van Niekerk and Dave Lewkowitz (New Africa Developments VW Polo) and Johnny Gemmell/Drew Sturrock in a factory Castrol Toyota RunX.

Gemmell was fifth at the end of the first day, but dropped back on stage 11 with a puncture that cost him nearly four minutes. Team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee impressed in their first outing together in the second factory Toyota Auris, running as high as fifth before they hit a rock and broke a tie-rod on stage eight.

Rautenbach started the day in fourth place after finishing 28,2 sec behind Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in a Sasol Ford Fiesta on Friday, but quickly closed the gap to the leader to 13,9 sec after winning the opening two stages of the day.

Cronje, in his debut appearance in the brand new Ford, dominated on Friday and won all five stages. He lost his lead on Saturday on stage 10 after the Ford landed on its nose over a yump and damaged the cooling system. He dropped back to second and then retired after the next stage when he clipped the edge of a bridge and broke a rear wheel.

Habig then took up the challenge after starting the day 10,7 sec behind Rautenbach. He won stages 10 and 12 and led the Zimbabwean by a meagre three tenths of a second with just one 11-km gravel stage and a 1-km tarmac stage in Amanzimtoti remaining. An engine misfire on the penultimate stage and a blistering stage-winning performance by the Zimbabwean saw Habig drop 7,4 sec behind Rautenbach, who then sealed his victory in style with third-fastest time on the final short stage.

Ashley Haigh Smith and Hilton Auffray comfortably won the new Super 1600 class (formerly A6) in a new React Ford Fiesta by 34,5 sec from Tjaart Conradie and Kes Naidoo (Silverton Engineering Toyota Auris).

The new Super 1400 class (formerly A5) was won by the all-woman crew of Megan Verlaque and Lirene du Plessis (BP VW Polo). They were the only finishers in their class. There were no finishers in class A7, where reigning champion Gugu Zulu and co-driver Carl Peskin led at the end of the first day in a factory BP VW Polo. A leaking gearbox on Friday could not be fixed before Saturday’s re-start and they called it a day.
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