Team TOTAL shines in Cullinan's first national rally
information supplied by: Total South Africa
16 August 2013
Team TOTAL shines in Cullinan’s first national rally
The sport of special stage rallying is designed for action-packed and closely contested motorsport. Round Five of the 2013 South African National Rally Championship, the Ford Dealer Rally, must rank as the most eventful of the season thus far.
While Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) wow their fans and sponsor to lead the opening day of the event, behind them are 32 win-hungry rally crews vying for Class and overall victory.
The small diamond mining town of Cullinan, east of Pretoria, Gauteng, has produced a thrilling battle throughout the rally field. Rocky, twisting and tricky stages have made for a challenging day in the office for the brave rally crews, but they put on a display of driving skill to entertain the fans for weeks to come.
Five of Friday 16 August’s six stages were contested on gravel while the day’s finale was a spectacular speed test around the Mamelodi Plaza shopping centre’s parking lot and buildings. Saturday 17 August has a total of eight stages lying in wait and all will be contested on gravel. Adding to the day’s testing nature is the fact that the rally action will be broken into two loops of four stages separated by a Service Park break. What that means is that should a competitor suffer a mechanical malady or puncture, they would have to stumble through 51km of rallying to reach their service crew to attempt repairs. Any mistake will prove very costly, adding to the drama and challenge that is on offer on Day Two.
Rising to this task are Team TOTAL, with their three crews in strong positions from which to launch attacks on their rivals on Day Two of the Ford Dealer Rally.
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.
Damseaux is lying in seventh place overall and is second in the S2000 Challenge. He is 12.8 seconds off the S2000 Challenge leaders, and some 30 seconds separates positions fifth to ninth overall, and this will see a great battle play out over the eight stages scheduled for Day Two.
“We had a clean run, and pretty much avoided the big rocks,” commented Damseaux at the end of the opening day’s action. “We had a right rear puncture, but it didn’t cost us too much time. It was so very tight in the stages, with short and sharp corners keeping us working hard in the cars. We’re chasing hard and enjoying the fight. Tomorrow we will have wider roads and more breathing space, so speeds will be even higher. We’ve aimed to keep Japie [van Niekerk, the S2000 Challenge overnight leader] in our sights and attack tomorrow.”
Hot on Damseaux’s racing boots’ heels are Moosa and co-driver Vermeulen. Despite having no braking power in the event’s first stage, Moosa still set a very competitive stage time. He followed that up with ever-quicker stage performances throughout the afternoon and finds himself tenth overall and third in the S2000 Challenge.
Commented Moosa: “No brakes on the opening stage was no joke, but we managed very well with cool heads and sensible lines. It was very rocky and rough in places, and the drivers are pushing very hard on the stages. We’re feeling very comfortable with our pace and our setup for tomorrow will see us challenge for positions higher up the leader board.”
It was a day of mixed feelings for eight-times Class champion Trott and young co-driver Lourens as they recorded tenth place in Class S1600 at the end of a testing day’s rallying. With two punctures and catching slower drivers’ dust, Trott was somewhat frustrated by his position yet also encouraged by his pace throughout all the various situations swirling around him.
The top ten Class S1600 crews are covered by a little over two minutes, and second to seventh positions are separated by only 20 seconds. This Class will provide close rallying action on Day Two, and it will be a well-deserved victory for the crew that claims the top spot on the podium with the nine other crews breathing down behind them for that position.
“We had a tough day,” said Trott. “These are very tricky stages, and they are difficult in these two wheel drive cars. Most of our rivals picked up punctures, some damage to the cars and some or other problems with dust and rocks pulled onto the lines. It makes our job of keeping the car safe that much more difficult, but we did our best. Tomorrow we have a better chance at pulling in our rivals ahead of us, and we’ll most certainly do our best.”
The Ford Dealer Rally will conclude at the Zonderwater Correctional Facility outside Cullinan at 13h30.
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
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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