Henk Lategan Rallying is his passion
By: Andries van der Walt
Ask any youngster when he is still very young what he would like to become when he grows up and invariable you will an answer such as “a firemen, a doctor, a policeman” or something to that effect. When Hein Lategan from Hartebeespoort, asked his son, Henk, the same question the answer was “a rally driver”.
And that is how it stayed. The young Henk, who followed his father’s racing and rallying career from a young age, never changed his mind. Rallying that is what he was interested in.
Hein eventually gave in and at age 15 the young Henk got his wish. He was given a second hand rally-ready Toyota Tazz that Hein bought from Tjaart Conradie. They laid out some tracks on his uncle’s farm near Hartebeespoort, and starting practicing with his father Hein as his teacher.
And not long after he competed in his first regional rally in 2010 when he was still 15-years old.
The next year he joined the ranks of the national championship series when he started to compete in the S1400 class in a Volkswagen Polo Vivo. But he tells you, he was not all that happy since he could not compete against the faster S1600 cars in the class.
The solution was an easy one.
At the beginning of this year, the 17-year old Henk, arrived at the start of the first national rally championship event of 2012, The Total Tour Natal, in a S2000 Volkswagen Polo sponsored by Q8 Oils. That raised some eyebrows and he was subjected to so quizzical looks.
His entry into the top level class of the national championship, the elite class one could say, did not start the way he had wanted to and he was brought back to earth when he rolled the car on his first event.
That could easily have been the end of his career. But the now 18-year old Pecanwood College learner was as determined as ever to make a success of his rally dream.
On the second event of the year, the Sasol Rally, also a round of the African Rally Championship, he was back. And he came back with a bang and got the attention of the rally fraternity when he finished in the top ten on the event beating some “old” hands in the process.
He sat out the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally due to an ankle injury he picked up during a rugby game.
Then came the Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth. And what a rally it was. Soaking rain the previous weeks and on the event, turned the stages in mud traps.
Once again it was the young Lategan who caught the eye and drove as if he had been doing it for years under atrocious circumstances to finish seventh. He was out to prove that he was no one day wonder.
The next event was the Rally South Africa that was held as a candidate event for a round of the World Rally Championship. The stages of the first day in the Valley of a 1000 Hills were no joke. But once again Lategan handled them like a master.
One the second day in the Mondi forest stages, he came into his own and was lying fifth overall with two stages to go when he misjudged a tree stump and bent control arms and broke the steering arm . And that was the end of his event. Interestingly enough, this happened shortly after he disposed his father Hein of fifth place.
Asked what it felt like to beat his more experienced father, Henk says that he does not believe that his father had prepared enough and was not at his best. Clever boy!
He says that his entry into the top level of the sport was a “bit scary, but not too bad”.
What does he like about rallying? “The speed and the challenge. It is dangerous and you have to concentrate and get everything just right. But the rush of adrenaline is just awesome”.
What about the future? “I want to go as far as I can in the sport. It is an important part of my life”. According to his father, Hein, Henk may go to the United Kingdom next to compete in the British Rally Championship to expand his experience of rallying.
But first, there is Pecanwood College and matric.