THE BP Volkswagen rally team contested round one of the 2012 SA National Rally Championship in KZN on Friday and Saturday. This event was the first outing for the brand new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000.
Despite being the first rally of the season with a new car, the results produced painted a good picture for the rest of the year. The new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 posted competitive stages times – and claimed stage wins in the process.
“We are satisfied with the first rally performance,” says Mike Rowe who heads Volkswagen Motorsport in South Africa. “There is a long season ahead with many stages to go. We have found some things that need improvement and will be stronger in round two.
“The development cycle of the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 is on track and it won’t be long before we have the pace and finishing capability we are aiming for. The BP Volkswagen Polo S2000s are still very young and a great deal of the work that lies ahead involves understanding the car’s performance and how it responds to the adjustments we make,” says Rowe.
The two-day rally saw competitors tackle nearly 200 km of rallying divided into 16 stages. The BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 immediately set the pace in the seeding stage. Here Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson finished at the front of the field, with their teammates Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries not far behind.
The duo of BP Volkswagen Polo S2000s led their opponents home by more than a second over the short distance. The performance of the BP Volkswagen Polo S2000s continued in the stages where Kuun and Hodgson claimed stage victories, second and third places during the event.
“The new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 is competitive, right out of the starting gate,” says Rowe. “In itself that is a significant reward for all the effort that has gone into creating the BP Volkswagen Polo S2000. We have work to do for the next event and we will aim to advance even further by the time the second round of the championship arrives.”
Electrical system problems forced Fekken and Arries into retirement and their teammates Kuun and Hodgson and BP Volkswagen newcomers Hans Weijs Jnr and Björn Degandt continued the fight.
“The new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 has great potential,” says Fekken. “We were in front at one stage before our problems surfaced so the potential is obvious. I can feel the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 is a stronger car, it pulls better and feels better. The potential is awesome.”
Kuun and Hodgson showed their experience in the national rally championships, keeping the pressure on and rallying hard. Newcomers Weijs and Degandt did not take long to find a rhythm and the pair soon found themselves competing amongst the top five on several occasions, rising to claim a third place finish in stage 12.
Ultimately it was Kuun and Hodgson who claimed fifth overall in the Total Rally with Weijs and Degandt in sixth place.
“We started the event with great expectations,” says Kuun. “There was great excitement on day one when the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 proved to be competitive. We were second overnight and I’m very excited about this new platform.
“We’re writing a new chapter of motorsport history with this new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 built in Uitenhage. The car is built to the best standard in the country and this is a very good result for our first rally.”
For Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin the first rally of 2012 saw a welcome return to form. The pair compete in the S2000 Challenge category and here they make use of a BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000.
“We had a few problems in the last two stages,” says Zulu. “We overcame those to finish the event, making it the first time I’ve crossed the finish line in 10 events. I’m very excited for the new season, the car feels good and we had a great rally.”
Zulu and Peskin rallied to second place in this new S2000 category, marking a strong start to their 2012 season. The BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S1600 of Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray also made good headway in the start of their 2012 season campaign.
Verlaque and Auffray crossed the finish at stage 16 to claim fourth place in the S1600 category. This is a good base for the duo to continue their campaign throughout the season to aim for a class victory.
“I got a bit over-excited in the first stage and got stuck,” says Verlaque. “That cost me a lot of time, but Saturday I drove with the focus on finishing the rally and we set some decent times on the stages in the second day. It has been a good start to the season.”
The BP Volkswagen rally team will next tackle round two of the national championship, the Sasol Rally in the Nelspruit area, from 20-21 April. Here the focus will be on continuing to build on the groundwork of the first event as the team works on making the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 achieve rally-winning results.