Leon leads the way!

Winter leading into Spring simply has to be the most beautiful time of the year in the Western Cape with brilliant flowers in the Namakwaland region and green and yellow splendour in the Swartland, even the West Coast turning green. The trip to Wolseley via Paarl did not disappoint either and the almost customary “detour” via Slanghoek set the scene for another great day of gymkhana racing in front of the 1930 Sir Garnet Hotel in Solomon Street.

On paper the simplicity of the five cone route had a number of teams fall into the trap of considering it too easy, but to the men from Die Stoor it certainly made setting up a lot easier and the 26 strong entry were itching to get going in the traditional West to East direction. In fact, few realised that this was in fact the route utilised for the fourth Sir Garnet Gymkhana.

Leon Engelbrecht had Aatera Firfirey navigating in the silver turbocharged L&M Racing class G Mini Cooper S 1.6 and they proved absolutely dominant with Leon demonstrating that his driving ability had certainly benefitted from the years of experience. At times the silver front wheel drive machine was even driven sideways and occasionally the navigator considered hiding under the dashboard. It was hoever all smiles once the results became final with Aatera taking her first overall win as navigator.

Defending Witzenberg Motorklub Gymkhana Champions, Rafique and Hishaam Firfirey, simply could not match their teammates for sheer pace on the day and though they shared the same L&M Racing car the husband and son had to admit defeat to mom, Aatera. When it was suggested that a properly developed Mini would be hard to beat in Gymkhana such a dominant package was not envisaged, but compliments to leon Engelbrecht who have certainly set the standard in gymkhana car preparation. This L&M Racing Mini really is a pocket dynamite!

Pierre and Jacques du Plessis were back in their rapid Du Plessis Auto class B Toyota Conquest Rsi 1.8 16v and the Ceres based brothers resumed their internal challenge with their normal flamboyant style which led to a few entertaining moments and close result. Pierre pipping his younger brother to third overall. Good news is that Jacques have acquired the ex-Frans de Witt (son of Chris de Witt) Toyota Conquest Rsi 1.6 rally car and will be making his regional rallying debut in 2018.

Morné Roux and his sister, Liezel Oosthuizen, were on form in their ex-Fanie du Toit class A Mazda 323 EGi 2.0 16v with another demonstration being consistent and quick enroute to fifth spot overall and just 0.11sec differentiation between their two fastest times on the day.

Anton Smit and Tania Vermaak enjoyed a good outing in the Toyota 1.6 powered class F Innovative Woodwork Datsun LDV and sixth overall bodes well for their campaign. Driving the biggest, heaviest, longest and least suited to gymkhana Ceres Toyota class E BMW E30 325iM simply serves as motivation for Johann Zulch and Cobus Viola and Oupa even had the BMW three wheeling towards an impressive seventh overall. For once the rally Ford Escort 1600 Sport was not present as it it is already being prepared for a full season of rallying in 2018.

Francois Mostert and Marius Ellis was back in the class A Opel Astra GSi 2.0 16v and they were in proper tyre smoking mood enroute to eighth overall with Marius Ellis and Francois Mostert ninth in the ankle biting little class D VW Golf MkI 1.4i uncomfortably close to it’s more powerful stablemate. Great to see how these two enjoy challenging one another at every event.

Another team that really give it their all was Riaan Swart and Juan Kenny in the On Fire / Fire Busters class D VW Golf MkI 1.4i and between the red and green Golf it was hard to decide who did the best impersonation of the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Aatera and Rafique Firfirey risked many years of marriage by sharing the supercharged cabriolet L&M Racing class G Mini Cooper S 1.6 but the wife and husband combination somehow reached the finish without the need of any lawyers and eleventh overall included a few handbrake turns too!

Liezel Oosthuizen and Tania Vermaak were in determined mood with their standard class I Toyota Yaris 1.3 and twelfth overall was quicker than Liezel Oosthuizen and Aatera Firfirey as class D entry with the same car in 13th spot. Abdul Sayed and Aatera Firfirey found more consistency in reading and adapting to lines throughout the day and the rather wide turning circle of the Midas Clubmans prepared class D Toyota Tazz 1.3 less of a problem around the tighter corners.

Hennie Odendaal and Giovanni Agostinelli also seemed much happier in their class C VW Golf MkI 1.6 after having attacked the rather solid kerbstones during their previous outing. Growing in confidence with each run they look set to step up their pace in future simply by finding more consistency. André Smit and Natasha de Jager did not enjoy a great day in Wolseley in their class C VW Golf MkI 1.6 as no matter how much Natasha tried the driver simply could not find any rhythm.

Werner Venter and Wynand van Niekerk another combination that found the five cones near impossible to master in their rear wheel driven class F Mazda Miata MX5 1.6 as the tail happy driver encountered the strange phenomena of the “moving cones” on every run. Once he managed to remove the elbow knots the cones simply moved to another spot which inevitably was not in the direction he was steering!

Vernon and Tristan Galp another to encounter this strange behaviour by the traffic cones in their Audio Smith’s class G John Cooper Works Mini Cooper S 1.6. Try as they might the father and son were tricked on every run and they could only record a single time in four attempts.

Now, though this might sound very humiliating and funny it also serves as clear indication that a good understanding between navigator and driver is critical to success in the sport of car gymkhana and it will inevitably serve regular combinations well should they progress to regional and national rallies in future. It is not as easy as it might seem from a spectator point of view and the Witzenberg Motorklub invites you to come and put this theory to the test on any of their events.

A number of drivers entered more than once in order to have alternative navigators experience their cars. Though these entries are non-scoring they serve as valuable exposure to newcomers and allows family and friends to be xposed to the challenges presented by the sport. Hopefully attracting more future competitors?

As always Pierre van der Westhuizen was present as the Clerk of the Course with Robert Marle the MSA Steward and MSA Environmental Officer. André Brinkman had the day off and commissioned Carol Visagie and Nicola Consani as the Judges of Fact for this event whilst Mama Bear, alias Anette Vermaak, was back as the Event Secretary with André and Nelmarie Mitchell running the Jayen Timer and Scoring. Dewald and Meghan Nortjé returned as the Start and Finish Marshals whilst Die Stoor took care of the VV4 Crates and Spectator Fencing. The officials enjoying great care from Ninkie and Wilna le Roux and the Houtkewer Coffee Shop and good technical support from Johan Viljoen. 

Good to see many familiar faces present at this event. Daan and Elizabeth Terblanche joining in with Worcester oval racer Danie Smuts longing for another go in his No 73 Beemer. Multiple champion, Fanie du Toit, providing a unique demonstration in his burnt orange and extremely rare, Toyota powered, Lotus Evora. Said to be one of only seven in South Africa the car certainly attracted volumes of interest on the day.

Driving back via drivers paradise, alias the 25km of Bainskloof Pass, and Wellington had one appreciate the splendour of the Western Cape from another angle and round three will see competitors move to Route 45 near Hopefield for a new event on Saturday 30 September 2017.

Should leave a Spring in their step!