AHS states the facts for 2013

A lot of hard work, new challenges and great beginnings................I have been looking forward to this rally and to getting back behind the wheel after a very, very long break!

I know everyone was expecting us to be in S2000 and be at the first round of the J-WRC this year, but like the A5 Toyota Yaris which I drove the door handles off before moving up a class, the same applies with the FORD R2.  I am enjoying this journey and there is still so much to gain and yes I also cannot wait to get to the S2000! Although we showed the pace in our field in the last three rounds of the NRC there is still work to do to get to the top of J-WRC.

I would like to put the record straight about the rumour  that we will only be doing “ 4 rounds of the SANRC” This is the new season and we will be contesting the full season, so watch this space!

We have re-structured and moved the preparation of the car to our workshop (AHS Racing) We have some new sponsors, a new team boss and with a common dominator that was inconsistent for the last two seasons, our navigator! I can proudly say we will be a dominant force.

TOTAL NATAL Rally  

Leading up to the rally we only really knew we would compete practically three weeks before the event. We did not want to put ourselves in the same situation as last year where we had committed to J-WRC and SANRC and for reasons out of everyone’s control pull out at the last minute leaving us always on the back foot as sanctions and penalties can be applied.

I am proud to announce our sponsors for the 2013 season in the South African National Rally Championship, they are:

  • Castrol Edge
  • Ford Racing
  • Regent Insurance
  • REACT Marketing
  • GoPRo
  • The House of Marley
  • Monster Energy

The Total rally of Durban is the first rally every year of the South African National Rally Championship and with everything being a “big push” my mechanic and myself pulling all hours of the night to have the car prepared in time for the start line - it was done!

The guys left on the Wednesday with the rally starting on the Friday. We had shake-down on Thursday, this being the first time really sitting in my car since the last rally (Garden Route of 2012!) We did have a planned testing day at the beginning of January but the engine decided to cry “enough” and we only managed to do a total of 12 km - but I suppose still better than nothing!

Craig and I settled in on shake down and everything felt great. We had put the prep in for the notes and all we had left to do was acclimatize for the rally. Friday was an early start, documentation opened up at 6am and our scrutineering time being at 7:12, the rally was to get underway at 11am.

Our start time for the rally was 11:32 and so we headed off to the first stage......This was also the first time Craig and I had sat with each other since the last rally. (Garden Route 2012)

Sadly as we rocked up to the start of the stage the Total Durban rally claimed its first victim,  Hergen Fekken went off the road in the first 700 metres which was a great pity as this also lead to his car catching alight. Fortunately he did come back on super rally rules on day two!

Our first stage was pretty average, keeping it clean and but we only managed to post the 3rd fastest time with Guy Botterill taking the win and Thilo Himmel sneaking in 2nd place! We had service and with some changes headed back to the stages 2 and 3 but again we were still losing time. Thinking it was me being “rusty” we decided to work on my driving but things still felt loose on the front end of the car. You cannot do anything besides drive the car until you get back to service.

Stage 4 was cancelled due to another car catching a light,  (this being due  to stage 3 having a hell of a jump at the end of stage and  Johnny Gemmel landed heavily on his nose possibly causing  the exhaust manifold to open and the heat catching the power steering fluid alight.)

We did the next stages but still lost more time. We ended the day in 2nd place - 33 seconds behind Thilio Himmel as Guy unfortunately got a penalty which cost him 2 minutes.

Day two was  a new day with our start time being 7am. We headed to the stages with the attitude of claiming the “top step” but this was not to be....  we just could not find a way for the power to be put down on the road. All we could do was try and fend off Guy who was on a charge to claim positions - I must congratulate him on his drive as the end result meant Thilo had won the rally (whom I have competed with in previous years and highly regard as a fast driver. I have always said he should have been in the national series much sooner - but still glad to see him now in a very competitive Toyota) and Guy had snuck in and taken 2nd and we still took a podium!

To me as driver am not pleased with the result but at least there are points in the bag. It “sucks” that we couldn’t fight for the win and continue our momentum from the last year but regardless it was a great event and I learnt a lot even though we had “one wheel drive” most of the time.

I would really like to thank all the organisers on the Total Natal Rally – It was so great to start an event of the season where everything runs so smoothly and all the enthusiasm was fantastic. With all the stage cancelations which lead to more drama in organising the cars from one stage to another so a big “ups” to them and I can say I am seriously looking forward to next year’s event...

Once again thank you to my sponsors and then my team. My mechanic put in endless hours and did a fantastic job, the car did ran faultlessly. The part we have found to fail cannot  be blamed on bad prep.  I would like to thank my navigator Craig Parry who now has come onboard to help me fulfil my dream of reaching the pinnacle of rallying the WRC, I am sure the next couple months are going to be super hard work but the result will be amazing and the pace can only improve tenfold! I can truly say we can’t wait for Sasol as first recce is an option and the roads are amazing (WRC quality) and this event is always a pleasure to drive.

Thank you to everyone for all the support before, on and after the event, we didn’t deliver the top step but  we are looking forward  to the next event where our season should kick off with a bang, it is going to be  a goodie!

For everyone who likes to follow up dates and wants to see what our plans are for the coming months, events, rally events and overseas plans please take a look at my website:- www.ashleyhaighsmith.com and if you want “day to day” updates give a like on Facebook and twitter :)

See you all at Sabie Sabie...........................