With only one special stage left in the Garden Route Rally, Habig and Paisley were forced to retire after being time barred. “We had managed to steadily make our way from 8th position this morning to 5th position, and it looked like a top 5 finish,” Habig said. “Unfortunately in the open section on route to the final stage, a bolt on the steering rack had sheered. We tried to repair it but ran out of time, and we were time-barred,” he added.
As expected, the roads on the event were very rough following the extreme weather conditions of the past few weeks where the area was battered with heavy rains and flooding. “The main culprit was probably the exposed rocks, and to have two punctures in one stage results in other components of the car to take a beating,” said Jan. “On day 1 we were caught in Leeroy’s dust, after he had become a victim to a puncture, and one stage later we had two punctures, losing a minute and a half. With the strong competition in the S2000 category, you cannot afford to lose that kind of time,” he added.
Day 2 saw Habig and Paisley recover steadily from their unusual 8th position overnight, and made some inroads on the positions, chasing a 3rd overall in the South African Championship. Finally on the pen-ultimate stage, they had put the Basil Read Ford Fiesta in the top 5, which would have added to their excellent finishing record this year. “It was a bit disappointing not finishing an event due to a mechanical problem – the first time this year. We had already dropped the Cape Dealer Rally due to my participation in the WRC Wales event, so a perfect 7 would have been a bonus,” said Jan. All considered, Habig and Paisley still find themselves 4th overall in the 2012 SA Rally Championship.
This is the first year since 1997 that Habig has prepared his own rally car, and there were many challenging aspects that were overcome. “I took delivery of the Ford two weeks later than we anticipated in the beginning of the year. This cut down on the test sessions prior to the Tour Natal as the main challenge was adapting to the left-hand drive together with the power and responsiveness of the Fiesta. A 4th place in the first event was good enough, and when the 2nd event came round, we had a tremendous run. Leading the event, it was a double puncture that moved us back to 4th – after all who will ever forget this contentious event where most of the field succumbed to punctures,” said Jan.
The 2012 VW Rally saw Habig and Paisley clinch 2nd overall, moving them into a strong 3rd on the South African Championship, the position they retained until the Cape Dealer Rally. Polokwane once again saw Habig in good form, only to move from 2nd to 7th in the pen-ultimate stage with a solenoid that came loose.
“Reflecting on the year, I have gained tremendous knowledge on the preparation and setting up of the Ford, together with my technicians. It has been a continuous learning experience for the whole team and is invaluable to our preparation for the 2013 season,” said Jannie. “During the off-season I will be doing extensive testing and applying the knowledge gained this year locally, as well as internationally, to making the Basil Read Fiesta a serious contender for 2013. Congratulations to Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton on clinching the 2012 SA Championship, and to Ford for winning the Manufacturers Championship for the first time in many years. I am honoured to say that I played a part and added valuable manufacturers’ points giving Ford the Championship, and breaking the stronghold of Toyota,” Habig said.
“ I think this is the right time to thank my main sponsor, Basil Read, as well as Konica Minolta, Bizub, Ford Credit, Babcock and Castrol for their support this year. Also to the unsung heroes of motorsport, the officials and the marshals, and the committed supporters, our sincere appreciation,” concluded Jan.