The Pretoria brother and sister combination of Jaacie Visagie and Irma Schoeman are the 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa champions following the finals which were held on the farm Aussenkehr in Southern Namibia last week.
The Winners are from the left – Jaacie Visagie with Sarel van der Merwe, Irma Schoeman and Jaco Steenekamp (VW Commercial Vehicles).
By all accounts it was the toughest Spirit of Africa competition in the event’s eight years of existence. Just how difficult is illustrated by the fact that the winning score was 62 percent compared to 87 percent in 2011.
According to the event’s creator, the legendary race and rally driver Sarel van der Merwe, the terrain, on the northern bank of theOrange River, 25 kilometres from the Vioolsdrif border post, was spectacular but very difficult and varied from sand dunes to rock climbs. The 20 tests included both technical exercises, usually carried out at very slow speeds, as well as high-speed tests.
The runners-up were Callie Otto and Neels Labuschagne and third place went to Piet and Madelien Kotze, twice previous winners of the event. Christiaan Otto from Bultfontein, winner in 2010 and 2011, was fourth with his wife Chane.
In the third place are from the left – Piet Kotze with Sarel van der Merwe, Madelein Kotze and Jaco Steenekamp (VW Commercial Vehicles).
Making up the top 10 were Tiaan and Sanet Theunissen with 1 123 points, Nico van Staden and Soon Bezuidenhout (1 090 points), Salomon and Anton Victor (1 036 points), Juan Grant and Douw Roode (987 points), Leon and Lienkie Labuschagne (976 points) and Andre and Yvonne de Villiers (950 points).
The top three teams respectively won cash prizes of R50 000, R30 000 and R10 000.
Multiple former national rally champion Hergen Fekken, who is a current works VW rally driver, finished 13th in his first attempt at the Spirit of Africa. He was teamed with his uncle, Roelof, a former works rally driver. Both live inPretoria.
“It was an awesome experience,” enthused Hergen Fekken. “Sarel created a very tough challenge and it was a great experience I shared with my favourite uncle.”
Van der Merwe was impressed with the high standard of driving and vehicle control displayed by the finalists. “Each year we have seen an improvement in the level of skills of the participants and we have been encouraged by the increase in younger competitors.” He was also impressed with the vehicles supplied by Volkswagen.
“This was the third year we have used the Volkswagen Amarok and the first time we had the single cab 2.0 litre TDI version. It has proved to be a more than capable vehicle under very testing conditions and its overall performance impressed everybody. We experienced no major mechanical problems at all. Thanks to Volkswagen, the 20 finalists can buy their bakkies after the finals. I expect quite a few will do just that.
Van der Merwe also paid tribute to the Goodyear Wrangler AT/SA tyres fitted to the 23 Amarok bakkies and supplied by co-sponsor Goodyear. “We couldn’t have a better tyre for the testing conditions we’ve encountered during Spirit of Africa.
“This tyre, which features SilentArmor Technology, has been specially developed for South African conditions and delivered a reliable and impressive performance throughout the two months without any failures.”
He also thanked co-sponsor Safari Centre for camping equipment and caravans provided for accommodation throughout the competition.
“Danielle and I and our team will now take a well-earned break before we set our minds to Spirit of Africa 2013,” said Van der Merwe.