Rallying is healthy in the place of the frog!

Just travelling to Tsumeb is an adventure in itself, something local residents probably no longer appreciate as they have become accustomed to the sight of sprinting Warthog and massive Anthills indicating north.

Returning to Tsumeb after nearly thirty years proved nostalgic as the Gateway to the North, in essence, showed little change. The road entrance indicated the 1905 heritage whilst the Tsumeb mine had become Ongopolo mine. Still the closest town to the famous Etosha National Park but no longer the capital Oshikoto it is still central to some of the most interesting history of Namibia.

In Nama the name Tsumeb means “The place of the frog” and relates to the green copper moss found in the hillside. Copper was mined so rich it required no further treatment before being sent to the smelter. In fact 56 types of mineral are noted here with some germanium minerals only found in this mine. Originally owned by the OMEG (Otavi Minen und Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft) it became TCL (Tsumeb Corporation Limited) before closing when the rich deposits became exhausted. Oxidized ore now being mined by Ongopolo Mining from upper levels in the mine.

What have not changed is the fact that the Minen (Mine in English) Hotel is still present (in ownership of Max Radenberg and family) and the 2013 Bank Windhoek Azurite Rally Tsumeb would start and finish at this historic 108 year old venue. With a population of just 44 113 one did not expect thousands of spectators present at the event but it would still enjoy excellent support from the local community as the annual round of the Namibian National Rally Championship provides a spectacle second only to the famous Copper Festival.

Even participants in the 2013 Put Foot Social Rally (18 June to 5 July 2013) interrupted their 18 day 8000km and 7 country adventure to spectate along the route. Some very interesting vehicles and great concept supporting a great cause.

Lake Otjikoto and Lake Guinas still fascinates the world of scuba diving as these sinkhole lakes have been in existence for so long it has evolved it’s own unique species of fish, Tilapia Guinasana. Divers have exceeded their safe depth for SCUBA (given the 1327m elevation of Tsumeb) but the bottom of these lakes have never been determined as they disappear into lateral cave systems. Just east of Tsumeb one will also find the largest meteorite in the world. Known as Hoba the nickel-iron meteorite weighs in at 60 tonnes. So much to see and do and so little time!

The most modern addition to the area undoubtedly the magnificent Kupferquelle (Copper Fountain in English) Resort owned by the Henning Family. Opened by the Namibian President, Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, in 2010 it also has an olympic size swimming pool.

The ten stage event would cover 224.03km in total with 116.35km of testing special stage. Hannes Arangies and Roland Himmel led the planning for this event with Ernest Thatcher the Clerk of the Course. Rainier Arangies, a former Namibian rallyist and owner of Expidite Aviations, is the brother of Hannes and is listed as a notable resident of Tsumeb.

Roland Himmel (24) the eldest of three rallying Himmel brothers. Father, Richard, a five times Namibian National Rally Champion and legend as Toyota driver of note, as always key to the success of the Bank Windhoek Azurite Rally Tsumeb.

Roland Himmel and newcomer navigator, Juan Erlank, present in their S1 Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 but they would have to fend off the attention of Thilo Himmel (22) and Armand du Toit in their stunning S1 Toyota Etios R2 1.5. Carrying a 50kg weight penalty until their homologation succeeds the Etios have been dominating S1600 in the South African National Rally Championship and this would be it’s first showing on what could be considered home turf. Jean Els Motorsport, JEM Motorsport, the team responsible for the continued development, but the Himmel family backers of the concept from day one. Younger brother, Marko (20), concentrating his efforts on the Gauteng Regional Championship in his S1600 Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6.

Also making the trip from South Africa was Stefanie Botha. Daughter of well know Namibian motorsport father, Willem Hugo, she opted for the Griffin Mining S2000 Challenge Toyota Run X 4x4 on this occasion as her encouraging result on the recent Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally had boosted team morale and this would serve as great preparation for the season ahead. Husband, Jacques Botha, really pleased with the progress made. Willem, the 1994 Namibian National Rally Navigators Champion, claiming to be more nervous as navigator for his daughter than when he is driving his own S4 Select Cars Subaru Impreza Turbo 4x4.

Making it a truly family affair was the fact that Riaan and Maretha Olivier would be campaigning the Select Cars Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo in class S4. Maretha the elder sister of Stefanie and experienced navigator for Willem whilst husband and son-in-law, Riaan,  would be trying his hand at 4x4 rallying for the first time.

This was also home territory for Debra Sachse and her enthusiastic rally marshals, a truly enthusiastic bunch of youngsters who have done sterling work in the series. One could risk calling the Namibian Marshals Register the Tsumeb Rally Marshals Register as most of them are based here.

Defending Namibian Rally Drivers Champion, Wilro Dippenaar, had his SA navigator, Kesevan Naidoo, present for duty in the Team Total / PZN Panelbeaters S3 Toyota Run X 4x4 and the scene was set for a serious duel with the Star Bodyworks S4 Subaru WRX 4x4 Turbo of Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous. Reputedly making more horsepower than the current crop of WRC cars and sporting a scary 221km/h top end tipped the scales in their favour – if only they could bring it home.

Special stage one was known as Max Plank, a title that could be substituted with Llewellyn Anthony as the Namibian motorsport legend is affectionately known as Plank and knew only one way to drive anything – Maximum. The reconnaissance run confirmed the seriously fast nature of the stages and it was painfully clear that only a maximum attack would see anyone challenge for top honours.

Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous drew first blood by completing the 22.25km first stage in just 12min02 to lead Wilro Dippenaar and Kesevan Naidoo by four seconds and going 37 seconds up on Allan Martin and Berto Mostert in third place. Stefanie Botha and Willem Hugo spinning twice but still managing fourth fastest, a single second faster than an impressive Hannes Arangies and Aisha Franz in their Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6. Roland Himmel and Juan Erlank slotting into fifth with their Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 whilst Jannie and George Coetzee became the first statistic of the event when their neat looking Pikkies Transport S2 Ford Focus expired with a broken alternator cable on stage one. As the only S2 entry the keen youngsters were planning no heroics and were simply driving to record a finish, but it was not to be as though they would be back for SS4 the car simply would not favour a finish.

Stage two would take competitors on a 8.82km tour of Namibian Food and this time it was Wilro Dippenaar and Kesevan Naidoo that topped the tables by a single second from Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous. The latter combination lucky to be running as Dick misinterpreted an instruction from Melvin, damaging a control arm in the resultant off. Less fortunate was Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit who broke a lower control arm on their JEM Motorsport S1 Toyota Etios R2, their challenge ending almost before it started.

Stefanie Botha and Willem Hugo stepped into the fray with third fastest – just five seconds down on the Scooby whilst Allan Martin and Berto Mostert found themselves lagging grunt in fourth spot. The VW Polo still mapped for the coast and this was 1327m in elevation taking it’s toll. Roland Himmel and Juan Erlank topping the Corolla war as Hannes Arangies and Aisha Franz also damaged a lower control arm. Dare we mention that he works on this property?

With development rearing it’s head in the town centre the popular Donkie Vlakte 3.21km spectator stage required some fancy footwork to be retained on the itinerary, and was it worth retaining! Locals flocked to the centre of town for the first of three visits and the opening salvo was run as a super special with two cars at a time providing a great spectacle.

Showing great grit and determination Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous surprised even themselves by posting another winning time in the spectacular Scooby, three seconds quicker than the PZN Run X and seven up on the Griffin Mines Run X. Allan Martin and Berto Mostert saving face by still beating the charging Corolla’s of Hannes Arangies and Roland Himmel.

The Donkie Vlakte Service Park a beehive of activity as service crew set about fixing damaged suspension parts. Dick Cornelissen lived with himself as they incurred a 1min50 lateness penalty as did Hannes Arangies for much the same repairs.

At 21.78km special stage four was known as Justus and this was where the pace stepped into Bloodhound territory. Very fast, deceptively tricky, and with no room for error the fight was on for ultimate victory. Everyone knew that Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous would come out of the service park with guns ablaze but nobody expected them to arrive with a G6!

Utilising the 221km/h gearing on the Scooby the almost 50km/h advantage they had on the S2000 specification cars was put to effective use as they literally flew through the stage to recover 45 seconds in just 21.78km of stage.

For defending Namibian champion, Wilro Dippenaar, and Kesevan Naidoo it was game over when the gearbox on the Team Total / PZN Panelbeaters Toyota Run X 4x4 cried enough. Stefanie Botha and Willem Hugo impressed with the second fastest time, six faster than the J&P Hydraulics VW Polo 4x4 and the retiring Total Run X in fourth. Hannes taking twenty three off Roland in the entertaining Toyota rumble and Riaan and Maretha Olivier running consistently in the blue Scooby on debut.

Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis not displaying the same flair as they did on the coast but their Toyota Cotolla RXi 1.6 was still quicker that the Seal Consultant Engineering S1 Ford Ikon of Jan Everson and Fanie Botes. Sporting a KZD dyno check on their little Ford the combination was determined to finally finish an event and things were looking good at this stage. Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard another combination running lower in the order than anticipated but their S4 Subaru Impreza 4x4 Turbo was also still blemish free and running well. Pieter Greef and Steven Robinson the final crew remaining in their Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 with more than half of the stage kilometres remaining.

Piet Abenab would be next, a 15.05km stage that would once again benefit the long legs of the Scooby. Another 17 seconds recovered with Stefanie and Willem asserting themselves as the fastest S2000 remaining in the event by taking 8 seconds off Allan and Berto. Riaan and Maretha Olivier produced a surprise fourth fastest time in their Subaru with Roland Himmel and Juan Erlanks now the dominant Toyota Corolla as Hannes Arangies and Aisha Franz ran out of gears in stage.

Tight and twisty with absolutely no room for error Koos Land would prove decisive as the 8.52km special stage six. Equal fastest time to Dick Cornelissen and Stefanie Botha simply slowed the inevitable as this was the stage simply proved that the Scooby was not going to be stopped. Allan Martin was still giving it his best in third and now found himself minus power steering just to add to a difficult day. Riaan Olivier once again surprising with fourth fastest.

After service it was Donkie Vlakte 2 and still Dick Cornelissen set about regaining the lead, seven seconds up on both Stefanie Botha and Allan Martin with Riaan Olivier third fastest. Unfortunately this would be their last appearance as the Select Cars S4 Subaru Impreza Turbo 4x4 would retire on the next stage with terminal gearbox maladies. Never the less a confidence boosting debut for Riaan and Maretha Olivier and hopefully they will be returning for more. The ever consistent Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard  four seconds down in their white Scooby. Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis surprisingly beat Roland Himmel and Juan Erlank in the Corolla duel on SS7.

Returning to the dauntingly fast 21.78km Justus as SS8 had Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous feeling confident and they took only 26 seconds from Allan and 32 seconds from Stefanie to stake their claim on first overall. Roland Himmel and Juan Erlank secure in fourth spot with Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis fifth. Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard sixth in their Scooby with teammates Jane Everson / Fanie Botes and Pieter Greeff / Steven Robinson rounding off the field of survivors.

Koos Land was challenging first time around but was even more so second time around but still Dick increased his lead by three seconds. Coming into the stage only two seconds separated the Polo from the Run X and it was to be Allan Martin that slipped up by stalling at a gate. Ironically Stefanie would stall at the very same instruction but recovered quicker to seal second place with an eleven second haul. The final spectator stage, Donkie Vlakte 3, would be too short to gain anything, but with everything to lose it was still going to be tense for the top three teams.

Nobody told Dick Cornelissen and Melvin Gous that there was any concerns and they left the crowd baying for more with a spectacular display of forceful driving in their unlimited specification Star Bodyworks Subaru WRX 4x4 Turbo. This was simply the driver of the day delivering an encore to an appreciative audience – goose bump stuff!

Stefanie Botha and Willem Hugo finally buried their “if only” history with a thoroughly deserved second place overall  in the ex-JP Damseaux Griffen Mining S2000 Challenge / S3 Toyota Run X 4x4. They were in a constant dual with the ex-Hergen Fekken J&P Hydraulics S2000 Challenge / S3 VW Polo 4x4 of Allan Martin and Berto Mostert and withstood the pressure to come out tops on home front!

Roland Himmel and Juan Erlank fourth overall after a consistently quick run in their S1 Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6 and the similar Toyota of Hanré Myburgh and Geon Ellis coming home in fifth overall. Jan Everson and Fanie Botes a well deserved sixth overall in their Seal Consulting Engineering S1 Ford Ikon. Their first finish and the car never missed a beat. They are relishing their debut in a VW Motorsport S1600 VW Polo during the November 45th Total Tara Rally.

For Rossouw Bezuidenhout and Lourens Barnard there was a final sting in the tail when they incurred a two minute early penalty, dropping them behind the Ford. The youngsters once again showing a mature approach to the sport and their S4 Subaru Impreza Turbo 4x4 reached the Parc Fermé with no signs of damage. The final finishers was Keetmanshoop based Pieter Greef and Steven Robinson in their Seal Consulting Engineering S1 Toyota Corolla RXi 1.6.

Werner Gevers, as the Master of Ceremonies, introduced Hans Nolte of Namibia Custom Smelters at the prizegiving and Richard Himmel represented the title sponsors, Bank Windhoek. Watching the young marshals step up to receive their certificates from debra Sachse once again illustrated how important collaboration between all parties concerned turns a series into a success. A speedy recovery to marshals Kai van der Bijl, Roland Janhke, Werner and Justin Rodwell Ogden who unfortunately rolled their vehicle returning home to Swakopmund.

Picture of marshals depicts

L-R rear: Mandy Jacobsz - Poena Oosthuizen - Esty Carstens - Pieter du Plessis - Bonita Potgieter - Barend Geldenhuys - Kai van der Bijl - Roland Jahnke - Izak Steenkamp - Justin Keyser - Tarina Nel

L-R front: Marietjie Oosthuizen - Debra Sachse - Delien Visser - Werner Potgieter en Emile du Toit

Congratulations to Dick Cornelissen who have now won the Bank Windhoek Azurite Rally Tsumeb no less than four times, 2008/09 and 2012/13. Melvin Gous deservedly complimented by his driver as this must have been an experience of note to stay calm at a constant 221km.h on a narrow gravel track.

Hats off to Stefanie Botha and Willem Hugo on a fighting second overall, this certainly was a deserved result that hopefully bodes well for the future. Allan Martin and Berto Mostert will rue the mapping slip but as the new championship log leaders they will undoubtedly be back wiser on the next event.

To the event sponsors Bank Windhoek – Namibia Custom Smelters – Henning Crusher – Powerline Africa – Namfo – Trentyre – Minen Hotel – Tulipamwe Catering Services the slogan certainly applied: Together you do better!

Then there was the extraordinarily large and yellow perigee full moon or supermoon that accompanied us on the road heading back from Tsumeb to Windhoek in the very early hours of Saturday 23 June 2013. This the closest the moon will come to earth until 2014. The brilliant illumination allowing a game drive of note with anything from Oryx, Kudu, Rooibok and many more entertaining us along the way. What a way to conclude a brilliant weekend.

A special word of thanks to Berto Mostert.