A superb drive by Jan Habig in the Basil Read Ford Fiesta S2000 gave the reigning Manufacturers Champions Ford, a dream debut to the 2013 SA Rally Championship season.
Finishing a strong second behind current champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton, also in a Ford S2000, Habig and Paisley banked the valuable points towards the 2013 Championship. Between the two Ford crews, they raked in fastest stage times on 11 of the 13 special stages run over two days, with clocking second fastest times on most of the stages. Looking at the bigger picture for Ford, their racing programme has made an impressive start as they also clinched a 1, 2 victory on the 2013 Off-Road Championship.
“I am extremely satisfied with the result and the overall performance of the car,” said Habig at the end of the final day of the event. “The changes we made during our test sessions have paid off, and we will continue to make minor adjustments to refine the overall performance of the car,” he added.
“We had a particularly good run in very trying conditions, and the extreme heat experienced on Friday took it’s toll on the crews, especially where we experienced long stage delays due to accidents. The reliability of the Ford is key to the very competitive nature of the S2000 class, where anyone of 8 crews can take overall honours,” he added.
Cronje took a commanding lead with Habig in second position from start to finish. The two Ford crews dominated throughout the event, racing in a league of their own. Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson experienced a high speed end over end roll in their VW in special stage 3 which was cancelled. The crew was hospitalised for observation but later discharged. At the overnight halt on Friday, with 5 gruelling stages behind them, Habig and Paisley were set for any challenges from crews behind them.
“The event was particularly well organised by NMCC and the number of spectators who followed the rally over the two days, was testimony to the pre-publicity the event was given. This is the way to promote rallying to the people,” said Habig. “An FIA observer kept a watchful eye on the running of the event, for possible inclusion in the World Rally Championship in future, and took cognisance of the smooth running of the event,” he concluded.
The Total Tour Natal attracted hundreds of spectators to the super special stage held at the old Durban drive-in on Friday evening, where they were entertained by two cars racing against each other on the special stage. Even though it rained on Saturday afternoon, the mood could not be dampened at the final stage as spectators gathered to welcome back the crews after two days of rallying. The next round of the 2013 SA Rally Championship is the ever popular Sasol Rallly which will be held on the 19th and 20th of April in Sabie/Nelspruit.