The Riebeek Valley Rally Returns

1 July is the date on which round 4 of the 2017 WP Championship, the Riebeek Valley Rally, is scheduled to start and finish at the Riebeek Cellars (Established  1941), Pieter Cruythoff Avenue, Kloof Street in Riebeek Kasteel. So what you might say, it’s just a date and a place? An interesting date in history and a very interesting place in South African history makes this quite a unique occasion.

Back in 1847 the first postage stamp with glue appeared in America and in 1858 Charles Darwin introduced London to his evolution theory. In 1860 an inventor by the name of Charles Goodyear was born on this day and in 1872 Thomas Francois Burgers became the State President of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. Then Albert Einstein introduced the world to his relativity theory in 1905 whilst Suid-Afrika became a dominion of the British empire on this day in 1910. In 1916 Coca-Cola introduced it’s famous bottle to the world and Popeye popped-up for the first time on this day in 1919. In 1941 the first television advertisement was broadcast on WNBT and in 1969 Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated Prince Charles (48 years ago).

Often referred to as the best kept secret of the Western Cape the town of Riebeek Kasteel is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Situated about 80km north-east of Cape Town and 5km south of it’s twin town Riebeek West in the Swartland. Pieter Cruythoff named the mountain Riebeeck’s Kasteelberg in honour of Commander Jan van Riebeeck who commissioned their expedition in 1661. In the later translation from Dutch to Afrikaans the c was dropped from Riebeeck and the towns on the eastern slope of the mountain became Riebeek Wes and Riebeek Kasteel.

Politically this area played a significant part in South African history with no less than two Prime Ministers hailing from the district. Jan Christiaan Smuts was born on the farm Bovenplaats 24 May 1870 and as leader of the United Party he would serve two terms as Prime Minister (1920-24 and again 1939-48). Then things heated up with Daniel Francois Malan, born on the farm Allesverloren 22 May 1874, successfully challenged Smuts as leader of the National Party to become prime Minister until 1954. Even more interesting is the fact that Genl J.B.M.Hertzog established the national party in Smithfield on 1 July 1914.

The house in which Smuts grew up is preserved as national monument whilst Allesverloren has become a renowned wine estate with a restaurant. The valley is known for it’s wheat, wines and more recently olives and the annual Olive festival is extremely popular early May. The Berg River Canoe marathon also passing by every July. The historic 1862 Royal Hotel is considered to be the oldest licenced hotel in South Africa and was in fact the only hotel to be listed on the top 50 places to visit in SA in 2006. Not only does it have the longest stoep south of the Limpopo in it neighbours the magnificent 1863 Dutch Reformed Church. In 2009 the “Rapport” newspaper chose Riebeek Kasteel as one of the three most beautiful towns in the Western Cape with Stellenbosch and Clanwilliam the other two finalists.

In fact the town have attracted some of the most famous South African painters and very nearly developed it’s own racetrack. You will find a neat little pink Fiat 850 on the corner of 23 Hoof Street and you will have you visit Dave and Petro Köpke at The Guesthouse at Köpke Classic Cars whilst the Hetvlock Casteel on the Môrestêr Farm, Church Street, is another must visit. Really challenging to fit in a round of the 2017 Western Province Rally Championship when there is so much to see and do!

Only the most senior Western Cape rallyists such as Brian Hoskins and Andy Haigh-Smith will have recollections of completing stages around Riebeek Kasteel with road service in the main road but undoubtedly everyone contesting the combined CPMCC / CCMCC Riebeek Kasteel Rally on 1 July 2017 will leave the area wondering why they have never taken the time to return much earlier. What a way to cross the midway mark of the championship with the 28/29 July 2017 WPMC All Tar Rally and the 22 / 23 September 2017 Overberg GP national to follow.

Quite fitting then that such a historic venue should see a classic rally car leading the points log after three rounds. Herman Mathee and Ruan Reynders have spent four years developing their very impressive 1973 based class S4 Madev Datsun GX Sedan 2.0 and the Witzenberg Motorklub combination have enjoyed a brilliant season to date. Their only goal to give every event their all their current position in the log came as a pleasant surprise rather than achieving a goal. Adding further nostalgia the Datsun is rear wheel driven, a concept almost forgotten in the modern era of front and four wheel drive.

Richard Slamet made history by becoming the first Namibian driver to win a round of the Western Cape Rally Championship when he claimed overall victory on the Overberg based iKapa Reticulation and Flow Klipdale Rally (25 February 2017) and then for good measure the I&S Freight Services S5 Toyota Run X 4x4 2.0 added a successive victory on the Malmesbury based CPMCC Swartland Rally (1 April 2017). Not domiciled in the Western Cape Richard does not qualify for points in the regional championship but with no national championship scheduled for Namibia in 2017 the Namibian competitors have become very popular visitors to the Western Cape and it is anticipated that quite a few teams will be present in Riebeek Kasteel.

The recent Koue Bokkeveld based Ceres Toyota Rally (13 May 2017) proved to be very demanding for some but most rewarding for the host club, Witzenberg. The club dominated the podium positions and all seven crews that reached the finish did so in the top ten placings to make this the best result ever for the 34 year old (Established 1983) Witzenberg Club. Understandably the chairman, Pierre van der Westhuizen, will be wearing a size bigger shirt on 1 July 2017.

Ettiene du Toit and Patrick Vermaak privileged to win their home event in their Supa Mac S3 WBMK Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 with Tiaan Rabe and Jean-Pierre Jacobs second in their Time2GoTravel S2 WBMK VW Golf MkI 1600 making a brilliant comeback after a year sabbatical. Herman Mathee and Ruan Reynders third in the mighty little Madev S4 WBMK Datsun GX Sedan 2.0. Having also finished second overall to Richard Slamet (Namibia) and Derek Jacobs (SA) in the Overberg the Supa Mac Toyota crew now boasts two results as the first WP crew home in 2017,  but a failed telephone call in the Swartland resulted in a DNF.

Provisionally the good news is that, son and father, Jacques and Leon Botha have indicated that they would be making the respective Windhoek / Pretoria trip to contest round four in their ex-Schalk Burger (FIA African Rally Champion) 911 S5 WMK Afrideca Plant Hire Subaru Impreza STi WRX 2.0 Turbo 4x4 and given the spectacle provided by this car in the Overberg it should be enough reason to be present as spectator.  Father and daughter, Willem and Mandi Hugo, also have plans to be present in Riebeek Kasteel with their bright green Griffin Transport 15 S5 WMK Subaru Impreza STI WRX 2.0 Turbo 4x4.

Richard Slamet and Derek Jacobs would be keen to keep the I&S Freight 98 S5 WBMK Services S5 Toyota Run X 4x4 2.0 ahead of the field but they would be advised to keep an eye on the Skyway 129 S5 WBMK Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2.0 Turbo 4x4 of Oswaldo Mendes and Tinus Malan and the similar Speed Pro Cycling Components 425 S5 WPMC Subaru Impreza GT 4x4 Turbo 4x4 of another father and son combination, John and Weston Peiser. Shaun Jones and Craig Gray another combination that could provide fireworks in their 2016 WP Championship winning 424 S5 CPMCC Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2.0 Turbo 4x4. Will we finally see Mike Nathan and Clint Lingeveldt return in the ex-Fernando Rueda (ex-FIA African Rally Champion) S5 CCMCC Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Turbo 2.0 4x4? Winston Neethling and Lyle Marais currently having a tough time deciding whether they should be competing in their ex-Hannes Grobler 424 S5 CCMCC Nissan Sentra 4x4 or the recently acquired ex-Hannes Grobler 428 S4 CCMCC Nissan Skyline 3.1. Here is hoping that the Skyline gets the nod for Riebeek!

With more 1600cc cars present in the Western Cape than in the national championship class S3 have become the talking point as everyone is steadily raising the bar on each event – and still they come! Ettiene du Toit and Patrick Vermaak carry a very visible target on the rear of their 467 S3 WBMK Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 and will have the similar cars of 413 Keenan Sassman / Llewellyn van Greunen, 433 Riyaan Amlay / Rafick Mia, 431 Ismaeel Davids / Yusuf Ganief  joining the VW Golf MkI 2.0 entries of 469 Paul van Wyk / Divan de Goede and 419 S3 WBMK Piet Bakkes / Kesevan Naidoo and rapid VW Polo 2.0 entries of 444 S3 CPMCC Warren Scholtz / Justin Gay  and 434 S3 CPMCC Llewellyn Jones / Michelle Taylor as well as the 456 S3 CCMCC Toyota Tazz 1.6 entries of Mustapha Mia / Ameen Snell. The return of André Cleenwerck and Carl Peskin in their rapid Jenspeed 414 S3 CPMCC VW Polo 1.6 is also anticipated. Ebrahim Mia has also acquired a Toyota of some description to replace his 420 S3 CCMCC VW Golf MkIII 2.0 and could well prove to be another threat. 402 S3 CCMCC Shaheen Amlay and 435 S3 CCMCC Clint Lingeveldt both have Toyota Tazz 1.6 challengers which could also enter the fray. The 409 S3 CCMCC VW Golf MkII 2.0 of Julian Calvert and Terry Croy always very consistent.

The ever consistent Yellow Submarine, alias AHS Racing 432 S3 CPMCC Mitsubishi Lancer GT1600, of Andy Haigh-Smith and Tania Vermaak have also been in impressive form this year.  Add 455 S3 CCMCC Armien Levy and 422 S3 CCMCC Faizal Davids in their respective Corolla RXi entries and S3 becomes more than a third of the entry.  Add the steady return of Darren van Greunen and Randall Marais in their ex-Duncan English 415 S3 WBMK Toyota Run X 1.6 and the class truly comes alive with both variety and quality.

Ashley Haigh-Smith will be contesting the 131km 13 SS, 718.11km total distance 20th Rallye National Terre Du Diois starts and finishes in Valencia, Spain, 2-4 June 2017 as part of the Peugeot 208 Cup and you will be able to follow everything live via the internet. With 115 registered entries keep an eye on Peugeot 208 VTi R2 No61. Hopefully he will be back in time to dust off the R2 Fiesta?

Herman Mathee and Ruan Reynders will also have their work cut out in 423 S4 WBMK with the Madev Datsun GX Sedan 2.0 challenged by the likes of Charl Strydom and Sakkie Bosman in the Sabre Paints 406 S4 CPMCC VW Polo 2.0 20v. Having recently celebrated his 60th birthday Charl Strydom have suddenly come alive as driver, possibly due to the Petter Solberg signature which adorns the roof of the Polo? The biggest threat to their continued form actually stems from picking up on the Piet Bakkes habit of continuously being on holiday. Having come home 1st WP team on their home event n Malmesbury certainly motivational. Trevor Hodges and Ian Thebus will be back from their international holiday and the orange 412 S4 CCMCC VW Golf MkIII 2.0 is certainly capable of surprising whilst it is anticipated that the pole assassin, 405 S4 WBMK VW Golf MkII 2.0 of Rupert van Zyl and Marius Rudolph will also be ready for a return.

For sheer consistency the 418 S4 WBMK Toyota Hilux of John and Derick Clift will inevitably be present in the final Parc Fermé. An unusual but pretty effective rally vehicle. Depending on how busy his kids are Abduraghman Amlay might just be seen behind the wheel of his own 407 S4 CCMCC Toyota Run X RSi too. Add the 465 S4 CCMCC Toyota Corolla 1.8 rwd of father and son Warren and Matthew Köhler for some more visual pleasure.

In class S2 the arrival of Tiaan Rabe and Jean-Pierre Jacobs have certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons as the Time2GoTravel 404 S2 WBMK VW Golf MkI 1.6 not only impressed in it’s unique “Golf” colours and second overall was indeed a result that had everyone sit up and take notice. Ian Long and Brian Hoskins taking up the challenge in their similar 436 S2 WPMC VW Golf MkI 1.6 whilst Tariq Khatib and TBA should also be in the mix with their similar 412 S2 CCMCC VW Golf MkI 1.6 back on all four wheels.

Competitors in the Riebeek Valley Rally will face four special stages, to be repeated, for a total of approximately 110km of competitive driving and a total event distance of approximately 250km. Three of the stages saw action in the days when tulips ruled and rallying were contested overnight and the route is being described as fast, action packed, and tricky? Something of everything would be a fair prediction.

The Riebeek Valley Rally presents a brilliant challenge with nobody having recent experience in the area and as such the event should provide another very interesting result in every class. Teams will have to be aggressive and cautious as the fifth round of the championship is set for 28/29 July 2017 and the WPMC / CCMCC All Tar Rally at the Killarney International Raceway have proven extremely testing in recent years. Tarmac demands full commitment from start to finish and the scenery at Killarney have a tendency to move around at the least expected moments.

What is true is the fact that the 2017 WP rally Championship is proving to be extremely entertaining and competitive. With more new combinations scheduled for the year be sure that you come and enjoy a great day in the Swartland by being present in Riebeek Kasteel on Saturday 1 July 2017.

More to follow ……….