IT was a trying two days of national rallying for the BP Volkswagen Rally Team when they took part in the Toyota Dealer Rally Gauteng on Saturday and Sunday. Punctures were a big issue throughout the field and, unfortunately for the BP Volkswagen team they were no exception to the rule.
“It has been a disappointing weekend after weeks of hard work by the entire BP Volkswagen Rally Team,” says head of Volkswagen Motorsport, Mike Rowe. “Factors completely out of the team’s control, including roads that were unfit for rally cars, made the weekend what is was but we used the opportunity to make massive strides with the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000.
“That is a significant reward, even if it does not reflect in the standings after this event. We remain optimistic and confident that the BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 will deliver on the results we all know it is capable of.”
Just six kilometres into the first stage both Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson and their teammates Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries were forced to pull their BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 rally cars to the side of the stage and change tyres. This problem was compounded by the soft nature of the environment and the teams lost valuable time attempting to get their flat wheels changed out.
Hans Weijs Jnr and Björn Degandt managed to avoid this problem, but instead found a different impediment – thick dust as they caught the slower competitors. Just this cost them more than two minutes in that first stage. It was only in stage three that the pair could properly post the times they were aiming for – within 1.9 seconds of the stage winner.
A puncture in the opening section of stage nine undid the work that Weijs and Degandt had done up until that point and they entered the final stage with an insurmountable time deficit. The pair still crossed the finish for fifth place at round three of the season. Their attention is now on the Volkswagen Rally which is just over a month away, it will be their first since joining the team.
For Kuun and Hodgson two punctures on the penultimate stage left them without tyres on which to complete the open section to the final stage. This forced their retirement after a solid comeback fight to overcome the time deficit from stage one. For Fekken and Arries the decision to compete in Super Rally of Saturday produced a good result, better than even they had expected. Starting from 26th on Saturday morning, the pair steadily put in good stage times to climb the ladder and finish in 14th spot overall.
For Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin the Gauteng Rally saw them again finish high up the order. The rally got off to a shaky start but they soon found their rhythm and their performance didn’t waver. They rallied their BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 to eighth overall and an S2000 Challenge victory – which saw them post a finishing time more than 20 minutes ahead of their class rivals. This is the second consecutive event they have punched above their class to produce extremely good results.
Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray got off to a great start at the Gauteng event, posting the fastest stage time in the S1600 category to lead their rivals by 28 seconds. Their BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S1600 looked to be in fine form when, just shy of the end of the second stage, they had to pull off the road unable to continue.
After two days of rallying in Gauteng the BP Volkswagen Rally Team have its attention focused on their favourite event of the season, the Volkswagen Rally, which takes place in the Eastern Cape on Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14.
The event promises to be full of rally action with some old favourites in the Longmore Forest and the return of some stages that competitors have not seen on the event in a while. The 2012 Volkswagen Rally is set to be a highpoint in the season and will, as per tradition mark the start of the second half of the South African national rally season.