THE Volkswagen Sasolracing rally team head to Mpumalanga for the second round of the South African National Rally Championship after a 5-year long gap since winning this premier event.
The Volkswagen team have claimed victory on the Sasol event nine times in its 22 year history, with six of those being consecutive wins, from 1999 to 2004 – but nothing since the 2010 victory of Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in a VW Polo.
With one podium result for the season already under their belt, the team is eager to put more points on their national score card at their team sponsor’s main event, the Sasol Rally, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, 17 and 18 April.
At this event the Sasol Rally fans will get to see the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000s in their new Sasol livery for the first time. The Tour Natal was the first outing in the new livery and Sasol fans will be only the second rally enthusiasts in South Africa to see the Volkswagen Sasolracing team competing in the new design.
“The new-look of the Volkswagen Sasolracing team is sharper and more focused,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “This reflects the energy in the team as well. The Volkswagen Sasolracing team has an even stronger drive and enthusiasm to succeed this season, it is shaping up to be a national rally season of action and excitement.”
The Sasol Rally is one of the most-anticipated national events on the annual calendar. Some of the best scenery combined with the biggest rally fans see an event which is both spectacular and incredibly demanding on the teams and the cars entered.
It is the high level of dedication required from teams that make the event one of the most popular every year. To succeed at the Sasol Rally means good preparation from both driver and navigator with attention to detail a pre-requisite in the workshop before the rally starts.
At the first round of the season, in KwaZulu-Natal, Henk Lategan and Barry White who stepped up to take the Volkswagen Sasolracing team’s first podium result – claiming third overall. This has put them in a strong position for the Sasol Rally, having already set a fast pace to start their season.
“Henk and Barry produced a good result for round one,” says Mike Rowe, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “They have opened the 2015 season for the Volkswagen Sasolracing team with a podium and we expect they will continue on with this trend throughout the season.”
Gugu Zulu and Pierre Arries displayed surprising pace considering it was only their first outing together. With the focus on building communication in the car and learning to work as a team, they produced a strong finish, just outside of the top five finishers for round one.
“Sixth across the line at the Tour Natal was better than we predicted for Gugu and Pierre,” says Rowe. “Attacking stages in the S2000 category successfully requires good pace which is only possible if the team works well together in the car. For Gugu and Pierre to show the pace they already have is extremely encouraging for the rest of this season.”
Hans Weijs Jnr and Björn Degandt have thrown down the gauntlet for the Sasol Rally. Rolling their Volkswagen Sasolracing S2000 at the Tour Natal means Weijs has the bit firmly between his teeth. He indicated his intentions for the Sasol Rally after the first round.
“We will do our best to win the Sasol Rally,” says Weijs. “We had good pace in KwaZulu-Natal and were on track to produce good stages times. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as planned but we are determined to do well in Mpumalanga.”
The 2015 event features 15 stages, with familiar favourites in Sabie, Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest and White River all included in the route schedule. According to the organisers the 206 km Sasol Rally will also include the Nelspruit stage (Spaghetti Junction) being run twice this year as well.
In addition to being a part of the South African championship, the Sasol Rally also forms part of the FIA African Rally Championship which brings even more attention to the team from outside of South Africa’s borders.
Each of the Volkswagen Sasolracing S2000s have specific goals in mind for the Sasol Rally – and each of these will see the team aiming for maximum pace out on the stages, producing some high-speed rally action to delight fans.