Duel in the desert - Walvis Bay delivers

Armed with a single hammer, hundreds of green and red arrows neatly mounted on droppers, the Star Bodyworks Toyota Hilux and a few bottles of water we answered the call of Dune 7. Slightly toasted, with no water remaining, we eventually called it a day with just two stages arrowed! Whoever stated that deserts are filled with soft sand have obviously never before tried to hammer droppers into position with limited time available. It would take another day to complete the ten stages!

Walvis Bay can only be described as a place of extreme contrasts as upon arrival one cannot help but wonder why anyone would want to live here as there was obviously some mistake in the original design.  A massively expanding industrial harbour with the beach on the wrong side of town – no wonder it’s all desert! Yet, it’s beautiful in it’s own right with much more on offer than you could imagine.

Sporting a very well developed salt oval track the Walvis Bay Motor Club must rate as one of the most active bodies in Namibia presenting Oval Track, Drags and Rallying to an appreciative audience of motorsport enthusiasts. J&P Hydraulics can be found very actively involved in all three disciplines with a Larry Shaw spaceframed ex-Juan Steyl Opel Corsa 13B Rotary in oval racing, a RB26 stroked to RB28 800-900bhp Nissan Skyline GTR dragster for straight line action and the ex-Hergen Fekken South African Rally Championship winning S2000 VW Polo 4x4 currently doing duty on dirt just the tip of the J&P Hydraulics iceberg. And did we mention the indecently quick 159kW DICE 2L 16v FSi long block, ex-Bennie Lodewyk, VW Golf MkI campaigned on the Tony Rust Raceway in Windhoek?

Led by the hyper enthusiastic Allan Martin it was simply a matter of time before the desire to host a rally around Walvis Bay saw J&P Hydraulics realise the dream. For six years the local motorsport community was starved, but 2013 saw rallying return in style. Thankfully the east weather remained – err well east – and Saturday 16 March 2013 dawned with acceptable temperatures which did not allow one to hear the plastic rusting away. This is harsh country!

Behind the scenes there was drama too as Willie Dames and Melvin Gous opted for as little sleep as possible leading up to the event with fuel pressure problems threatening to keep their Jaco van Dyk owned, ex-Schalk Burger Jnr, JRM Group / Power Line Africa Gp N4 (S4 Namibia) 230km/h Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X in Windhoek. Most cars in Namibia are linked to a variety of owners which makes identification quite interesting. The ex-Giniel de Villiers S2000 VW Polo with which Willie Dames had won the Total Tara in November 2012 now being rebuilt for Jaco van Dyk? By some strange coincidence Willie Dames always seems to be driving left hand drive vehicles – but finds it quite easy to adapt.

Zander Wiese and Eugene Viviers were also looking rather concerned as their ex-Hergen Fekken yellow A7 (S2 Namibia) Von Baum’s Motors VW Polo 2.0 were encountering clutch problems and sixth gear was absent without leave. Nobody doubts the pace of this youngster and it was disappointing to realise that he would probably not be able to deliver on this occasion.

Big brother, Jaco Wiese, even more frustrated as he would be limited to driving the 0 car. It did help knowing this would be the magnificently prepared J&P Hydraulics 495bhp LS2 Corvette V8 powered 1997 Chevy 150 pick-up truck on 35 inch wheels (Americans do not refer to these as Bakkies). Delien Visser, nervously, making her debut as navigator after many years as marshal.

Quietly confident the immaculately prepared PZN Panelbeaters / Total Evolution S2000 Challenge (S3 Namibia) Toyota Run X 4x4 of Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit proudly displayed their status as the defending Namibian national rally champions with the number one on the side windows. For 2013 teams adorned their 2012 championship points position as their race numbers.

With no Jaco Wiese to represent number two the presence of Willie Dames and Melvin Gous was encouraging as they were obviously still battling a few gremlins in the No 3 Mitsu. Allan Martin and Berto Mostert stepped up from No 34 to No 4 in their J&P Hydraulics S2000 (S3 Namibia) VW Polo 4x4 and with almost a year behind them as experience they were confident of a much more competitive performance on home soil.

Twice full contact Goju-Kai karate world champion, Leonard Martin, set to start his first Cape Epic on the same day. The Martin brothers really raring to go! Berto nursing a few blisters after two days of hammering – literally!

A Gp N3 Toyota Run X RSi 1.8 is a deceptively quick machine and much was expected from the (S2 Namibia) No 5 Nala / JCB version of Cecil Koorts (Driverside) and Oscar Schoombee (Suicide), the proverbial sheep in wolves clothing. Neatly prepared and understated in it’s presentation as a full blown rally car the fast roads would have been welcomed by this team. Willem Hugo had stand-in navigator, Steven Ogden, nervous prior to the start in the No 6 Select Cars Gp N4 (S4 Namibia) Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo. This was Subaru country as top end would be of great value in the desert.

Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis found themselves armed with the modern day version of a Escort BDA, the absolutely bullet proof  No 11 S2 Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 formerly campaigned by one of the three Himmell brothers. Zander Wiese and Eugene Viviers, for obvious reasons,  did not look too happy in their No 17 Von Baum’s Motors VW Polo whilst Jan Everson and Fanie Botes really looked geared for action in their neat ex-production race car No 18 S2 Seal Consulting Engineers Ford Ikon. Confident that their car will last the distance and it certainly looked the part.

Newcomers, Willy van Wyk and Freddy Smith, had their No 20 S1 VW Beetle 1.6 geared for action and though this would quite obviously prove to be the slowest car in the field their attitude made them winners before the event had even started. Two more newcomers with plans were Jannie and George Coetzee in their neat No 21 S2 Ford Motorsport liveried Ford Focus ST. Youthful exuberance their biggest challenge to contain as they were clearly aiming high. Their presence at the start also made possible with a little help from J&P Hydraulics.

Marco Luis and Eugene Koen had their (Gp N4) No 22 silver S4 Xenium Racing Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo ready for action with the similar white No 28 Namibian Lubrication Systems Subaru of Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard in hot pursuit. The latter pair of youngsters on the back foot from the start with tyres – pretty much driving with what they had available rather than the optimal choice.

Trading her S2000 Challenge Toyota Run X for the ex-Jaco Wiese Gp N4 (S4 Namibia) No 30 Select Cars Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo Stefanie and Jacques Hugo added an element of surprise to the starting line-up as this car certainly had what was required to finish at the front. Back on home soil and possibly more relaxed circumstances might just prove ideal for a good result.

Two Open category entries completed the entry list with André Bezuidenhout and Charl Fourie starting as favourites in their imposing Zarco 3.5 Rover V8 powered No 101 WPP Space Frame. By comparison Marius van Zyl and Lars Jensen was driving an almost sedate looking 3.4 Ford V6 powered No 102 Ford Bakkie (this is Africa remember).

Dick Cornelissen still had his Subaru baking in the oven, thus releasing Melvin Gous to navigate for Willie Dames. Great to see Piet and Renaté Bakkes present in support of the event but also possibly preparing for the S2000 Challenge debut coming up on the Sasol Rally with an ex-Dippenaar Toyota Run X. And then there is the Golf MkI 2.0 waiting patiently for the Western Cape Rallysprint Series too?

Once again it was an absolute pleasure to witness the manner in which Debra Sachse and her 21 strong group of marshals went about preparing for the event. Believe me when I say it gets hot and dusty in the desert and these youngsters are dropped off with nothing more than a few liters of refreshments and maybe an umbrella as shade. Most travel from Tsumeb (some 600km away) to make the event reality. Unfortunately limited time does not allow to learn all their names but be assured your efforts are noted.

With Harald Linger at the helm as Clerk of the Course the teams set off for the opening 10.97km Dune  SS1. Having made their debut as a team on this very same stage it was something of a personal highlight for Allan Martin and Berto Mostert to  claim the stage win by seven seconds in their J&P Hydraulics VW Polo with Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit second fastest in their Total Toyota. Averaging 102.99km/h this was clearly not going to be a pleasure ride and it was doubtful whether they noted the Springbok (buck) spectators along the way.

Rooikop Airport was just across the road SS2 at 8.26km in distance, with a similar layout, taking the cars along the C14 where spectators could truly appreciate the sight and sound. Sadly without Willie Dames and Melvin Gous who were forced to withdraw the Mitsu after special stage one. Zander Wiese and Eugene Viviers clearly not happy either and some reason for concern for Allan Martin and Berto Mostert with the alternator warning light glowing.

At 89.86km/h average this was seriously quick past some rather intimidating granite blocks and Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit put their Total Toyota three seconds up on the J&P Hydraulics VW of Allan Martin and Berto Mostert. The J&P Hydraulics VW still hanging on to a four second lead overall with Stefanie and Jacques Botha third in the Select Subaru. China, the 5.61km SS3, would take competitors on a flatout blast past the granite mine and with a winning time of 2min04 (159.97km/h) Allan Martin and Berto Mostert clearly did not need the now absent second gear in the J&P Hydraullics VW Polo as they stretched their overall lead to 25 seconds.

SS4, Dany, was a real stinger at 20.25km and took competitors to a remote Service Park next to a Church that reminded of a cowboy gun duel at high noon rather than rallying. Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit started to pull their ears flat in the Total Toyota (averaging 125.38km/h on a route that would have felt welcome in Finland) and claimed twelve seconds back from the J&P VW of Allan Martin and Berto Mostert. The battling S2000 duo almost a full minute faster than Stefanie and Jacques in the third placed Subaru.

Missing from the fray was Willem Hugo and Steven Ogden who nose dived the Select Cars Subaru and in Namibia you simply go nowhere without a radiator. They were however fixing the car and would return for the afternoon loop of stages starting with a modified reverse of Dany – now known as Church and 18.31km in length. Zander Wiese and Eugene Viviers retired the almost gearless A7 VW Polo after a frustrating outing.

Being desert the service park illustrated that if you did not bring it with you – you simply had to do without as you were surrounded by sand and ………. more sand. Cecil Koorts and Oscar Schoombee was made to work hard for fourth overall by that pesky little Corolla of Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis whilst the entertaining Ford Focus ST of Jannie and George Coetzee were ready to pounce on the Toyota duo – but there was this little matter of experience.

Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard impressed despite their obviously incorrect tyre choice and were holding their own against the similar Scooby of Marco Luis and Eugene Koen – who would also suffer from a lack of experience later. Jan Everson and Fanie Botes running like the proverbial clockwork in their Ford Ikon after four stages.

Marius van Zyl and Lars Jensen were giving it their all in the V6 Ford Bakkie, actually leading the Open category from André Bezuidenhout and Charl Fourie going into the second half of the event. Amazingly the little VW Beetle 1.6 of Willy van Wyk and Freddy Smith was still hanging in too!

Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit reeled in another seven seconds on SS5 with Allan Martin and Berto Mostert starting to struggle without second gear and a slight misfire was also audible. Stefanie and Jacques Botha clearly stepping up a gear in the Subaru and running much closer to the S2000 entries. Willem Hugo and Steven Ogden finally calling it a day in their Select Subaru near the end of SS6 when the engine cried enough. SS6 took competitors back to the Rooikop Airport stage and when comparing times it was clear that the surface was now deteriorating.

Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit breaking free at the front of the pack with a dominant stage victory from Stefanie and Jacques Hugo whilst Allan Martin and Berto Mostert really started to feel the effects of their gearbox and electrical problems. SS8 was a repeat of SS4 and with Dany also being run in reverse as SS5 the road was really breaking up in sections. Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit moving well clear whilst Allan and Stefanie shared second fastest time, with the pesky little Corolla still chipping away at the Run X. Jannie and George Coetzee spoiled a great run by dropping ten minutes in the Ford Focus for reasons unknown.

Returning to Dune 7 for the final gravel stage of the event the order at the front was pretty well established with the Wilro Dippenaar again beating Allan Martin and Stefanie Hugo to the line whilst Hanré Myburgh again irritated the Run X of Cecil Koorts. Dirk Cornelissen mightily impressed by Allan Martin at the two double cautions next to the C14 and rightfully so as they were indeed worthy of caution.

The finale of the event a most entertaining spectator stage around the Walvis Bay municipal offices in the centre of the town and appropriately known as the J&P Hydraulics Spectator Stage the 1.73km stage was to provide a sting in the tail.

Wilro Dippenaar and Morné du Toit blasted into the stage and then wrongslotted by not completing the gravel section. Fortunately the stage was short and the resultant penalty saw them record the slowest time on the stage but retain their well deserved overall victory in the Total Evolution / PZN Panelbeaters S3 Toyota Run X 4x4. The perfect start to their title defence.

Allan Martin and Berto Mostert providing some heart stopping moments when they stalled their J&P Hydraulics S3 VW Polo 4x4 in front of the large contingent of spectators. Failing power and no gears had Berto Mostert pushing the Polo back to life whilst willing helpers were told to keep their distance. Second slowest time but still satisfied with second overall on their home event.

Had the Polo failed to restart Clint Langenhoven – Antua Jacobs – Pieter Moller and Uno would have carried it over the line as service crew. A combination worth watching in 2013 as they are clearly starting to find consistent pace.

Sharing the fastest time on the final stage Stefanie and Jacques Botha impressed enroute to third overall in their S4 Select Cars Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo. Cecil Koorts and Oscar Schoombee had to give it their all on the final stage as they only had five seconds in hand over that pesky Corolla. Sharing the fastest time with the Subaru proved their anxious moment and they were relieved to finish fourth overall and 1st S2 in the JCB / Conti Partner Toyota Run X RSi 1.8.

Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis really impressive with the little Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 finishing just ten seconds down on the Run X in fifth overall 1st S1. Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard proved that consistency pays dividends by bringing their S4 Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo home in sixth overall 2nd S4. A great debut for the youngsters.

Marius van Zyl and Lars Jensen impressed by taking a seven second victory in the Open category with their 3.4 V6 Ford Bakkie after a rally long duel with the 3.5 Rover V8 powered Zarco WPP Spaceframe of André Bezuidenhout and Charl Fourie. One could not ask for two more varied cars in the same class and their internal battle was a highlight of the event.

Heartbreak one was the Jannie and George Coetzee S2 Ford Motorsport liveried Ford Focus ST. Committed driving saw the youngsters drop ten minutes in SS8 before adding further insult to injury with a two minute early penalty. They will undoubtedly be aiming higher up the order come Swakopmund.

Marco Luis and Eugene Koen eventually finishing 10th overall in their Xenium Racing S4 Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo. A hefty 8 minute early penalty not part of their planned result and they too will be looking to make amends come Swakopmund. A 4 minute early penalty did not have much influence on the eventual 11th overall achieved by Willy van Wyk and Freddy Smith but for sheer “vasbyt” they could be considered the overall victors in their S1 VW Beetle 1.6. Bringing it home an achievement of note for these two enthusiasts.

Jane Everson and Fanie Botes completely luckless on the final as they could smell the finish when they broke a CV and though Fanie Botes managed to push the Seal Consultant Engineering Ikon past the FF they simply could not make it back to the Walvis Bay Oval Track Parc Fermé and the dreaded DNF appeared on their score sheet.

110.22km of challenging special stages with just 79.96km of open section makes this an extremely cost effective and compact event in any country and if this is what desert rallying is about – bring it on! Prizegiving saw Piet Burger behind the microphone and live music entertained late into the night. Magnificent trophies a perfect cherry on top for a well organised event.

The next round of the championship will see crews return to the coastal region as the Swakopmund Rally is scheduled for 4 May 2013 and with the promise of some more teams returning the Namibian National Rally Championship is set for a season of note. Must admit that those Beemers (Tinus Malan and Dirk Redman) and the Groentesmous were sorely missed in Walvis! Trust her 21st was fantastic Oswaldo Mendez?

As an outsider the warm reception in Walvis Bay was truly appreciated and I am returning with a new insight of just how healthy motorsport is on the Namibian coastline. Who would have thought that Chip Foose would have a presence here, or that the wildest Chevrolet Lumina SS lives there, not to mention a 200mph R34 Nissan Skyline!

A visit to the Boardwalk will allow you insights as to just how magnificent an area it is with some of the best photographs to be viewed. Share your Jetty Burger with curious Pelicans or watch as the Duikers (bird version) catch fish within arm’s reach. Just around the corner the Flamingo’s provide a brilliant pink splendour whilst Springers (Have no idea what they are known as in English) jump out of the water. Somewhere on the distant horizon the black and white lighthouse (apparently it is more visible in the ever present mist than the traditional red and white) marks another well known feature.

Die enigste teleurstelling die feit dat hierdie artikel in Engels geskryf moes word om ‘n wyer gemeenskap te bereik. Wat ‘n plesier om Afrikaans te praat met almal!