Not only is this rally regarded as the premier event of the SA National Rally Championship, but it will also host the second round of the FIA-sanctioned ARC, and it will now also host a round of the Northern Regions Rally Championship.
In the National Rally Championship the Ford Performance team of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton will be aiming for back-to-back wins in their Fiesta S2000 after dominating the season-opening Tour Natal Rally in February. The Sasol Rally winners in 2012 and ‘13 will be chased by reigning champions and last year’s winners Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) and the Volkswagen Sasolracing crew of Henk Lategan/Barry White (VW Polo). On the fast and flowing forest roads in Mpumalanga the second Castrol Toyota crew of Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan (Toyota Yaris) and Hans Weijs from the Netherlands and Belgian Bjorn Degandt (Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo) will also be in contention.
Kenyan Jaspreet Chatthe and Zimbabwean Dave Sihoka (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo RC2) will also be looking for victory in the ARC category after the pair won the KCB Safari Rally in Kenya earlier this month. Chatthe will face a stern challenge from Zambian brothers Jassey and Muna Singh Junior, sons of the legendary Zambian rallyist and double ARC winner Muna Singh, both in Subaru Imprezas. Jassey won the ARC in 2013 in his debut season.
MOST DEMANDING RALLY
The rally covers a total stage distance of approximately 206km, and is preceded by a recce of all the gravel stages on Wednesday, when competitors will be afforded the opportunity to drive the route twice at a maximum speed of 60km/h – as per the FIA African Rally Championship regulations. With 15 stages and overall event distance of 584km the Sasol Rally is longer and more demanding than any other, and has a reputation for being tough on man and machine.
There are also two thrilling tarmac stages where pairs of cars start simultaneously and compete head to head. There are five tarmac stages altogether.
The rally will start at 10am on Friday, and will end with two short tarmac sessions in the packed streets of Sabie and White River respectively. Saturday will get underway with two Super Specials, split by a run around Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium, after which competitors head for the service point to change their cars’ set-up for a series of long, hard challenges in the forests. The rally then returns to Nelspruit for the traditional final short special stage on grass inside the main arena of the Lowveld Showgrounds.
Spectators can already get a first glimpse of the cars on Thursday afternoon at the shakedown stage close to Hendriksdal.
Pretoria News Motoring
Original source: Drivers rev up for tough Sasol Rally