Team TOTAL shifts up a gear
information supplied by: Total South Africa
31 May 2013
TEAM TOTAL SHIFTS UP A GEAR
As the 2013 edition of the prestigious South African Rally Championship gains momentum, with crews and manufacturers hungrily looking to claim as many championship points as possible, the opening day of the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally in Bapsfontein, Gauteng proved highly dramatic and action-packed.
Competitors relished in the dry gravel roads cutting through the mielie fields, throwing up plumes of dust and dirt as they drifted sideways into and out of sharp corners. The rally cars’ engine’s growled and barked violently as the committed drivers planted their right feet to the car’s accelerator pedals to urge their cars even faster along the bumpy and rocky tracks.
With five stages completed on Day One of this the third round of the 2013 National Rally Championship calendar, 27 of the 37 original starters reached the overnight halt after 90.78km of timed action. Notable retirements on Day One include Hergen Fekken (Volkswagen Polo S2000), Morne Janse van Rensburg (Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 Challenge), Leeroy Poulter (Toyota Yaris S2000) and Guy Botterill (Toyota RunX S1600). The remaining battle-weary crews and cars will repeat the same five stages from Day One on Saturday 1 June for Day Two’s intense action. Stage times and stage records are set to tumble, with crews single-mindedly aiming to outpace one another.
All drivers will be chasing after Jan Habig (Ford Fiesta S2000), who leads with a 28.7sec margin over 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Yaris S2000) and Henk Lategan (Volkswagen Polo S2000). Leading the Class S2000 Challenge battle is Team TOTAL’s Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen in their Toyota Auris S2000. Thilo Himmel leads the Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive category in his Toyota Etios S1600 rally machine.
The rally will restart on Saturday 01 June from the Toyota Parts Distribution Warehouse in Parkhaven near Boksburg at 08h00. The first stage is due to begin at 09h03, and the event will conclude at the RallyStar Motorsport Academy outside Bapsfontein at 13h30.
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.
After an impressive fight up the order in the season-opening TOTAL Rally in March, and a gutsy performance in the Sasol Rally in April, Mohammed Moosa has seen his behind-the-scenes efforts bear fruit: he ended Day One in an impressive sixth position overall and leading the Class S2000 Challenge for older specification Super 2000 machinery in a measured and mature performance. Hailing from Tzaneen, Limpopo, Moosa’s determination is renowned in the Service Parks around the country, and on Day One his patience and pace were justly rewarded. Four of his five stages times were clocked within the top ten, giving him the edge in consistency over his Class S2000 Challenge rivals, and more importantly he kept a cool head while his adversaries were making mistakes.
“Today we had a good day in the car, but I am not bothered about stage times at the moment,” commented Moosa. “I want to find that special feeling in the car, where it all comes together. Then, I will look at the stage times. These roads are not as exciting and driver-focused as those we’ve encountered thus far in the season, but they nonetheless put up a test for us all to bite into. Tomorrow we will aim to bring our rally car to the finish and to collect as many championship points as possible. It will be a long day of competition, and anything can still happen out there.”
Craig Trott is no stranger to fighting his way up the leader board. This eight-times South African Drivers’ Class Champion lies fifth in the Class S1600 and the Two Wheel Drive category at the overnight halt. Driving neatly through the narrow and rocky stages with as much speed as possible is not straightforward as it sounds: “The roads are good, but each corner has a blind apex as a result of the mielie stalks,” explained Trott. “It is fast out there on the roads, and our aim is to keep the car in one piece and reel in our rivals with each stage tomorrow.”
With Day One’s five stages repeated on Day Two, Trott offered this: “In rallying, we can but only hope for a finish. Then we can calculate the efforts of our speed, and hopefully those will bring handfuls of championship points to our season campaign.”
For Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray, a broken gearbox in their Toyota Auris S2000 forced them to retire at the end of the opening stage. “This is the other face of the coin,” shrugged Damseaux. “Everything can be perfect at one moment, and then it can all fall apart as it did for us today. We will need to work doubly hard for a win next time out at the Volkswagen Rally in July.”
Fred Berrange and Chris Pearce are conservationists at the Leopard Conservation Project. These two gentlemen not only understand the benefits of teamwork, but are examples of it. 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. In the Service Park on Day One, Berrange and Pearce supported Trott by helping his service team in making sure the Team TOTAL Toyota RunX S1600 left the Service Park prepped and primed for more fierce rally action.
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.
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
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.
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