Team TOTAL rises to the top
information supplied by: Total South Africa
08 August 2013
Team TOTAL rises to the top
Motorsport enthusiasts are a vocal bunch. They are also very passionate fans, and play a vital part in the growth and success of any motorsport series. The 2013 South African National Rally Championship has thrilled, wowed, silenced, frustrated and mesmerized. No fan can lay claim to 2013 being a dull season thus far.
Team TOTAL is the largest privateer rally squad contesting the National 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 battle it out in identical Toyota Auris S2000 machines in the ultra-competitive S2000 Challenge for earlier specification Super 2000 rally cars, while Trott flies the TOTAL South Africa flag in Class S1600 for two-wheel rally cars.
At the mid-point of the 2013 Championship, Team TOTAL and its rivals look back on four hotly contested and demanding rallies in four different provinces over the past five months. After 736.78km of timed competitive distance and an average of 08 hours 42 minutes and 10.3 seconds for 52 stages of intense rally action for drivers and co-drivers have faced thus far, the most successful pairing at the halfway point is that of reigning Champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) with three wins followed closely by six-times Championship winner Jan Habig and co-driver Robert Paisely (Ford Fiesta S2000) with one rally victory in 2013. The scoreboard reflects this close rally action: Cronje leads Habig by just 5 points...
Damseaux is currently sitting in fifth position overall in the S2000 Drivers standings, and is leading the S2000 Challenge points fight. He is but only 5 points off fourth-placed Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Greg Godrich (Toyota Yaris S2000), and Team TOTAL’s experienced driver has stamped his authority on his debut in the S2000 Challenge. In the opening round of the Championship, the TOTAL Rally in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in March, Damseaux and Auffray stormed to a popular third place overall in their sponsor's event and also scored the first S2000 Challenge victory of the season. This Western Cape pairing followed that up with a superb second place in S2000 Challenge on the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga in April when they placed eighth overall in treacherously slippery and misty conditions in the Lowveld mountains, but Lady Luck abandoned them on the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally in Bapsfontein in Gauteng six weeks later when they were forced into retirement on the very first stage of the event with gearbox gremlins. Last month's Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, saw Damseaux charge to win the S2000 Challenge once more despite heavy competition from rivals, but he maintained a cool head to claim fourth place overall too.
Moosa and Vermeulen started this season as the proverbial “dark horses” of the series. With ever-increasing speed and confidence, Moosa is undoubtedly the one to watch in the latter half of 2013 and his pace in the first half of the season is impressive to say the least. He started his season off with a very strong showing on the TOTAL Rally, but an error on the penultimate stage of the event saw Moosa roll his car and lose some 30 minutes to his rivals. This dropped him from a certain fourth place overall position to eighth, and from second in the S2000 Challenge to fourth. Nevertheless, the Tzaneen entrepreneur took to the Sasol Rally's wet and slippery stages with speed and overcame mechanical problems that cost him valuable stage time to climb up to 11th overall and fourth in the S2000 Challenge after two trying days of competition. The Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally's stages proved happy hunting grounds for Moosa, as he quickly took hold of the S2000 Challenge lead on Day One and shadowed the more powerful cars from his factory-backed rivals’ squads. This translated into a string of top eight stage times that saw him knocking on opportunity's door for fourth place overall for the second time of the season. However, an error on the final stage of the rally saw Moosa's Auris land on its roof and lose a handful of minutes. With enough of a cushion over his S2000 Challenge chasers, he was able to win the S2000 Challenge class and grab sixth position overall. Moosa and team-mate Damseaux have enjoyed a friendly but intense rivalry thus far in 2013, swapping positions and pushing each other to new limits. On the Volkswagen Rally, he was once more chasing team-mate Damseaux and lying in a strong seventh place overall. On the penultimate stage of the event, things went awry though: a snapped sideshaft saw Moosa wrestle his Auris through the long gravel stage in the daunting Longmore Forest. At the end of the event, Moosa was forced to settle for tenth place overall and fourth place in S2000 Challenge.
The Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000s are sophisticated and high-powered four-wheel drive, 2.0-litre rally machines. They demand an aggressive driver input while being driven smoothly to extract the maximum performance. The 1.6-litre, front wheel drive Team TOTAL Toyota RunX S1600 of Trott is another car completely: it needs to be handled with a lead accelerator foot, smoother inputs and braver car control to keep the nose of the car pointing in the right direction on the slippery gravel roads.
For the eight-times National Rally Class Champion Trott and new co-driver Janine Lourens, their first season together has seen them building in speed with each successive round. Round One of the 2013 season saw Trott, in his home event the TOTAL Rally, score fourth place in Class S1600 and finish a highly respectable 12th overall. It was an event of high speeds and high drama, but the Durbanite rose to the occasion. In the trying conditions that marked the Sasol Rally as the most difficult of the season thus far, Trott was faced with five punctures - three in one stage - to lose a handful number of minutes with each puncture and drop out of contention for any podium possibilities. With the gravel roads deteriorating into muddy lanes, the two wheel drive rally cars were becoming stuck in the thick mud and deep ruts. Trott managed to pick his way through the stages, and found himself in eighth position in the Class S1600 at the end of an unforgettable event. His luck was on the rebound for the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally when he and co-driver Lourens stormed to third place in Class and 14th overall, outpacing their rivals in their more powerful rally cars. It was an event that saw Trott work his way up the leader board, his experience and skill behind the steering wheel showings its value. And, for the most recent event, the Volkswagen Rally, Trott and co-driver Lourens did one better: they claimed second place in Class S1600 and grabbed 14th place overall. This was their best performance of the season as a pairing, and it marks them out as Class S1600 Championship contenders once more. Trott is currently third in the Class S1600 Drivers Championship points-standings, just 5.5 points off the Class leaders.
Round Five of the Championship is the Ford Dealer Rally on 16 and 17 August, held in and around Cullinan, east of Pretoria in Gauteng.
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.
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
Catch Team TOTAL next in action on the Gauteng Rally on 16 – 17 August in Gauteng.
For more information on Team TOTAL, please visit http://www.total.co.za
. Follow TOTAL South Africa on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TotalSouthAfrica
and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TotalSAfrica
. For registered media, photographs may be downloaded from http://www.motorpics.co.za
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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