With the opening round of the 2012 South African Rally Championship, the Total Rally, just over two weeks away (March 23 and 24), excitement is building for what promises to be one of the most closely-contested competitions in many years.
Strong entries for the 54th running of this traditional season-opener, the fourth to be sponsored by Total, are expected from the factory teams of Castrol Toyota and BP Volkswagen. They will do battle with at least five state-of-the-art imported privateer Sasol, Basil Read-backed and privateer Fords in the top Super 2000 class, two privateer Team Total Toyotas and a number of other privateers in the older, earlier generation cars who will be contesting the new S2000 Challenge.
With just two classes in this year’s championship, the Super 1600 class is also expected to attract a large entry of mostly privateers with one or two factory-supported cars.
Organised by the Natal Motorcycle and Car Club, the rally will consist of 16 special stages (14 gravel and two tar) covering 196 kilometres over the two days. It will be centred on the Sun Coast Casino complex, which will host rally headquarters and the media centre with the parc ferme and service area alongside.
A feature of the event sure to attract large crowds of Durbanites will be a brand new and unique super special stage in the heart of the city. The stage, which will be 90% tar and 10% gravel, will see two cars at a time racing alongside each other under strictly controlled conditions over a distance of some three kilometres.
What makes it different is that it is, in fact, two super special stages in two separate car parks, connected by a 600 metre section that will cross over the coastal highway close to Sun Coast Casino. The stage will finish a stone’s throw from the Moses Madhiba stadium.
It will be the final stage on both days and is scheduled to start at 19.15 on Friday (March 23) and at 16.15 on Saturday (March 24). The super special will again complete Saturday’s 10 stages, with the other nine covering a distance of some 122 kilometres of gravel roads in the South Coast area. It will start at 16.15.
All gravel tests will be run on the infamous and ultra slippery KZN south coast roads.
Day one will start with a timed shake-down on the super special stage in the centre of Durban, to determine the starting order for the event. Five gravel stages await crews on the south coast of KZN, followed by the spectator super special night stage in Durban.
Day two’s challenge will consist of nine gravel stages in the south coast area and the final stage the tar super special in Durban to end the event. This will be followed by the podium champagne spraying and prize-giving presentation.