Points and Podiums for Team TOTAL in Mpumalanga
information supplied by: Total South Africa
21 April 2013
Points and Podiums for Team TOTAL in Mpumalanga
Rallying is widely regarded as the toughest and most demanding discipline of motorsport. Add to that mix treacherously slippery gravel road conditions, persistent and heavy rainfall, thick mist with ever-changing visibility and a stopwatch, the second round of the 2013 South African Rally Championship was an event unmatched in its challenging weather conditions.
Held in the forests surrounding Nelspruit, Sabie, Graskop, Hendriksdal and White River, the 22nd
edition of the Sasol Rally was contested by 43 eager crews of which five were tackling the event as Round Two of the FIA African Rally Championship. The rain, mist and mud proved so dangerous as for the event organizers to cancel two stages of the rally, and was marked by only 33 of the original starters reaching the finish line in Nelspruit’s Lowveld Showgrounds on Saturday 20 April after some 180km of special stage competition.
Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) celebrated their second win of the season, and enjoyed what was a thrilling tussle with team-mates Matthew Wilson/Chris Patterson from the United Kingdom. Wilson, a former World Rally Championship contender, led for much of the event but a window wiper motor failure and windscreen demisting problem cost him over two minutes of valuable stage time to drop him behind Cronje. Cronje outshone his illustrious team-mate on Day Two and reinforced his status as the fastest rally driver in Africa by dominating the event on Day Two to take a comfortable win. The Toyota Yaris S2000 of Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee claimed the final podium position in the overall event classification.
Team TOTAL is the largest privateer rally squad contesting the 2013 South African Rally Championship, and its three-car entry into this competitive series comprises of Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray (car number #5), Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen (car number #15) and Craig Trott/Janine Lourens (car number #61). Damseaux and Moosa compete in identical Toyota Auris S2000 machines in the ultra-competitive Class S2000 Challenge, while Trott flies the TOTAL South Africa flag in Class S1600 and the Two Wheel Drive Championship.
Rolling mist on Day One of the event affected all competitors. Flying through the air over jumps, spectacularly drifting into corners and powering aggressively out of turns is the usual modus operandi for our brave crews, but this weekend saw their speed reduced in a number of the stages to nothing short of survival mode. The surface conditions offered little to zero traction for the rally tyres to bite and the mist spelled limited visibility in many stages, but as a testament to the pace notes from the co-drivers and the skill of the drivers, they put on a brave and determined display of rallying perseverance.
“It was a rally I was pleased to finish, not because of my finishing position but of the scary conditions,” said Damseaux. “At times we were at the mercy of the gods, merely wishing to make it to the finish of the stage in one piece. These roads are of the best gravel stages in the country, but this weekend we simply didn’t enjoy speeding over them.”
Damseaux and co-driver Auffray finished eighth overall and claimed second place in the Class S2000 Challenge category, and now share the points lead in this hotly contested Class with Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000).
“We didn’t want to try any heroics on the stages; it was a feat to reach the finish line in itself,” continued Damseaux. “We spun the car 360 degrees a handful number of times, and never before have I been a passenger in a rally car in this way.”
With determination Moosa took on this rally’s stages with the aim of winning the Class S2000 Challenge category this weekend. His Day One performance was sadly marred by three problems that saw him limp through the seven stages. On the opening stage of the event of Friday 19 April, his Toyota Auris’ brakes mysteriously failed after the first few kilometres to reduce the Tzaneen businessman to driving frustratingly slowly and lose valuable time to his rivals. His woes were compounded on the afternoon’s speed tests when he snapped a driveshaft to render the car four-wheel drive car a rear-wheel drive machine and then his window wipers’ motor failed in the fourth stage to slow him down even further. He ended Day One in 11th
overall and fourth in the Class S2000 Challenge standings, and started Day Two with goal of consolidating this position. Moosa and co-driver Vermeulen held onto this 11th
position, and even closed the gap to his rival in tenth place but the conditions didn’t allow Moosa to launch an attack to leapfrog his rival.
“It was the wettest, toughest and most challenging rally of my career,” summed up Moosa. “We were never able to push for a higher position on the leader board, but were absorbed in the fight to simply stay on the road. I am pleased we reached the finish line safely and without any incident. I will put this event behind me as soon as I can to focus on the next one already.”
Despite the challenges this weekend, Team TOTAL’s Class S2000 Challenge competitors set a number of impressively competitive stage times when the opportunities were presented on the mountains of Mpumalanga. Damseaux and Moosa proudly represented TOTAL South Africa with their determination, bravery and unwavering professional attitude throughout the weekend of competition.
With a broad smile of relief across his face, Trott finished eighth in the Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive Championship categories, ending an event where he was dogged by a string of punctures to cost him over 20 minutes of stage time to his rivals. The Durbanite resigned himself to the fact he was unable to move the leader board due to his time loss on Day One, yet on Day Two he underlined his performance credentials to his rivals with fast stage times in his Toyota RunX S1600.
“What an event it was,” commented Trott. “It was not a sprint for the stage wins here, but each team that reached the finish feel like winners. Had the weather played along with organizers wishes, this would have been a very different rally indeed. The five punctures we suffered on Day One ruled us out of the running for the rally, but we persevered on to finish the rally strongly. We’re happy to collect this finish, head home and prepare for the next event. That is all we can do after this muddy, rainy and misty rally.”
Team TOTAL has chosen the Leopard Conservation Project as their social responsibility and has joined forces to raise awareness of the plight of these elusive predators. The Leopard Conservation Project was created 14 years ago to capture, rehabilitate and release rescued leopards from poaching, poisoning, trapping and over-hunting in southern Africa, and the Project has expanded its role from primarily rescuing these big cats to researching their behaviour and protecting their future population growth through science. In conjunction with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Leopard Conservation Projects strives to bring these marvellous animals back from the brink of extinction.
Team TOTAL is the only rally team to actively support an initiative of this kind in South Africa. For more information on the Leopard Conservation Project, please visit their website at http://www.leopardcon.co.za
The next round of the Championship takes places in the Bapsfontein area in Gauteng for the Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally on 31 May to 01 June.
For more information on Team TOTAL, please visit http://www.total.co.za
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Note to editors: Please do not refer to TOTAL South Africa as Total SA, as this refers to the Total Group with its head office in Paris, France. TOTAL South Africa refers to the company in South Africa and its operations in South Africa.
Points and Podiums for Team TOTAL in Mpumalanga.doc (46kB)
2013 SASOL RALLY - final results.pdf (813kB)
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