Slamet conquers Overberg Grand Prix

Saturday 25 February 2017 provided special stage rally supporters in the Western Cape with good reason to feel good about their favourite motorsport as the annual Overberg Grand Prix certainly delivered in all aspects. An air of expectancy could be sensed during documentation on Saturday 25 February 2017 and the presence of four Namibian teams topped an already impressive 25 car entry.

Given the fact that Jacques and Leon Botha won the Hallspeed Bronkhorstspruit Northern Regions Rally on Saturday 18 February 2017 with the ex-Schalk Burger Afrideca Plant Hire S5 Subaru Impreza WRX Sti 2.0 Turbo 4x4 did not go unnoticed and the monster Scoobie was not in the Overberg to impress spectators with it’s sound and looks only. Leon not known to be at a loss for words anywhere or anytime, but this Scoobie had him break a sweat every time anyone mentioned blind crest flat.

Dark horse entry by Richard Slamet with the Silver Fox, Derek Jacobs, as navigator in the I&S Freight Services S5 Toyota Run X 4x4 certainly stacked the odds in favour of the Namibians. Derek a veteran Clerk of the Course with no real need for the Route Notes on any event in the Overberg district and Richard Slamet certainly no slouch behind the wheel of the ex-Damseaux S2000 entry. Given his relative lack of driving experience he would simply accept blind crest flat as the norm.

Willem and Mandi Hugo the third Windhoek Motor Club entry present in their bright green Griffin Transport S5 Subaru Impreza Sti 4x4 Turbo 2.0 and the father / daughter combination brimming with enthusiasm as the only true Namibian entry. Having pretty much seen it all and done it even more Willem had young Mandi highlight whatever came after the blind crest flat instructions. Oswaldo Mendes and Tinus Malan representing Witzenberg Motorklub in their Sky-Way Investments S5 Subaru Impreza Sti 4x4 Turbo 2.0. Their only problem being that Tinus almost certainly did not know what a blind crest flat was in Portugese? The scary part being the fact that Oswaldo would still be willing to find out what lies beyond the horison.

Local hopes squarely on the shoulders of John & Weston Peiser in their old faithfull Speed Pro Cycling Equipment S5 Subaru Impreza GT 4x4 Turbo 2.0. This is in fact the very first Subaru to rally in SA and though almost standard in performance specfication their consistency have netted some fine results in the past. Klipdale however, possibly the closest thing John Peiser has to being superstituous, and true to form the Scoobie halted at the spectator point before the crew discovered the lose turbo pipe. Cannot repeat the comments after the minor problem was finally discovered, but the damage was done and their challenge faltered to some impressive stage times.

Special stage 1&2 consisted of 15.5km Overberg tradition and have in fact been used during national events many years ago (something to ponder as the traditional Swartland September national is scheduled to visit the Overberg in 2017) and quite appropriately the name of Geskenk had the four Namibian teams take control of the timesheets from the start.

Jacques and Leon Botha as expected running like a 911 from an alternate manufacturer to beat Richard Slamet and Derek Jacobs by 11 seconds. Uncomfortably close to a second per kilometer over 15km with Oswaldo Mendes and Tinus Malan third fastest. Willem and Mandi Hugo keeping their green Scoobie within sight of the leading trio whilst the Western Cape teams recovered from the initial shock.

Keenan Sassman and Llewellyn van Greunen fifth fastest in their Howard Centre Motors S3 CCMCC Toyota Corolla RXi 1600. This young talent taking the fight to returning veterans Ettiene du Toit and Patrick Vermaak in their Supa Mac S3 WBMK Toyota Corolla RXi 1600. Having won the GpN2 national championship in this same car some ten years earlier the latter crew found themselves just one second shy on their first gravel contact. André Cleenwerck and Carl Peskin another veteran combination also in with a shout in their Jenspeed S3 CPMCC VW Polo 1.6 but a broken shockabsorber and suspected blown headgasket ruined their day after SS4.

Trevor Hodges and Ian Thebus posted eighth fastest time in their Wheel Master S4 CCMCC VW Golf 3 2.0 but a nasty bearing knock also saw them retire at the first service park. Defending WP champions, Shaun Jones and Craig Gray, traded their Subaru Impreza for their 2.7 S5 CPMCC BMW E36 325i but though it had the top end the crew could not maintain stability and ninth fastest was not quite what they expected as a result. Charl Strydom and Sakkie Bosman was looking promising in their always immaculately prepared Sabre Paints S4 CPMCC VW Polo 2.0 20v and were eager to reach Parc Fermé with a good result.

Late entry Riyaan Amlay and Rafick Mia posted eleventh fastest in their ex-Marko Himmel Ramlay Builders S3 Toyota Corolla RXi 1600. Driving with three broken fingers even sounds painfull and this was their debut on gravel with the Corolla. A cautious start, but the car looked willing and ready. Winston Neethling and Lyle Marais found themselves back in their ex-Hannes Grobler S5 Nissan Sentra 4x4 after they had blown a headgasket on the recently acquired ex- Hannes Grobler Nissan Skyline. Sadly, their event run after SS1 with a faulty crank sensor on the Sentra.

Looking very lively indeed was the historic / classic Madev S4 WBMK Datsun GX Sedan of Herman Mathee and Ruan Reynders and despite the twitchy nature of this short wheel base vehicle the much lighter driver was relishing the opportunity to wag the tail of this very well prepared little rwd. Ebrahim Mia and Ameen Snell were also looking forward to a good start to 2017 but the Ramlay Builders S3 CCMCC VW Golf 3 2.0 but the Golf would succumb to engine failure midway through SS3.

Warren Scholtz and Justin Gay also started the event with a measure of caution in their Die Hollandse Motor Spesialis S3 VW Polo but the late entry certainly gave notice that they were ready for 2017. Andy Haigh-Smith returned with the AHS Racing S3 CPMCC Mitsubishi Lancer GT1600 sporting a few improvements and a new navigator in young Tania Vermaak. With Ashley Haigh-Smith resigned to the role of Team Manager on the day the “Yellow Subamrine” was off to an encouraging start.

John and Derick Clift finally completed a Western Cape special stage as official entries in their neat S4 WBMK ACW Engineering Toyota Hilux LDV. The Tara veterans really enjoying their rallying at what could be considered their home turf. Armien Levy is no stranger to rallying, in fact, he was a leading driver in the Western Cape some 35 years ago. Coming back in the Jive S3 CCMCC Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 with Jean-Pierre Jacobs certainly quite a challenge, but it was great to see the veteran enjoy each stage.

Julian Calvert and Terry Croy once again driving at their own pace and a broken shockabsorber on SS2 saw them nurse the S3 VW Golf 3 2.0 home with another steady drive. Faizel Davids and Matthew Köhler did not have a great start to their 2017 campaign as the Xtreme Contractors S3 CCMCC Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 experience a engine management problem from the start of SS1 which would eventually lead to a blown engine on SS4.  Brother, Ismaeel Davids, and Quinton Swarts, suffered broken wheelstuds on SS1 with their Xtreme Contractors S3 CCMCC  Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 and once repaired they suffered from brake problems.

Abduraghman Amlay and Yusuf Ganief only made it to the spectator point on SS1 with the Amlays Motorsport S3 Toyota Avanté before overheating forced them to spectate. Llewellyn Jones and Michelle Taylor were looking racey in their GCF S3 CPMCC VW Polo 1600 but then made contact with a rather solid gatepost on SS1 which broke a sideshaft, hub and lower control arm. Returning, the damaged gearbox cried enough on SS3.

Just when it seemed as though Jacques and Leon Botha would be vanishing across the next blind rise Leon found something attractive in the SS3 farmyard and insisted that Jacques complete a second lap. After all nothing was making any impression against the meanest Scoobie ever to rally in the Western Cape and the resultant loss of time would prove negligible. SS4 and they were back into a commanding lead but then the centre differential exploded on SS5 and their incredibly impressive run was over.

Richard Slamet and Derek Jacobs suffered a flat right front on the Run X in SS5 but with the Scoobie history they simply had to cruise to victory and despite no longer giving it their all the Toyota still looked good enroute to an emphatic victory in the Overberg. Richard Slamet making history as the first Namibian driver to win a rally overall in the Western Cape and given the celebrations of this team they should be back in the near future.

Surprisingly it was Ettiene du Toit and Patrick Vermaak that finished second overall on their return in the Supa Mac S3 WBMK Toyota Corolla RXi 1600. Having haemorrhaged time in the dust of right rear punctured Hugo Subaru on SS4 the actual pass in the farmyard was enjoyed by all. An overshoot on SS5 unknowingly allowed the hard charging Keenan Sassman and Llewellyn van Greunen into 2nd place with their Howard Place Motors S3 CCMCC Toyota Corolla RXi 1600, but they too punctured and incurred a twenty second lateness penalty which eventually split the RXi entries by 16 seconds after seven very entertaining stages.

If there was any doubt as to which class would be the most competitive in 2017 the 1600 teams have certainly shown their willingness to scrap hard and clean. With no less than seven Corolla RXi cars already committed to the Western Cape Rally Championship and more rumoured to be on their way the season could prove to be one of the most competitive in the history of the Western Cape championship as there are a number of competitive entries from other stables too.

Riyaan Amlay and Rafick Mia achieving a commendable fourth overall despite driving with three broken fingers. The Ramlay Builders S3 CCMCC Toyota Corolla RXi 1600 running comfortably and they too will be much quicker come Malmesbury on 1 April 2017. Another team grinning from ear to ear with a remarkable fifth overall in the Madev S4 WBMK Datsun GX Sedan was Herman Mathee and Ruan Reynders. Undoubtedly their best ever result and a real confidence boost in a car that was literally built from scratch.

Charl Strydom and Sakkie Bosman also opted to inspect the spectator area on SS3 but recovered well to claim sixth overall in their Sabre Paints S4 VW Polo 2.0 20v. A morale boosting result after a number of frustrating events. Warren Scholtz and Justin Gay ecstatic with seventh overall in their S3 CPMCC VW Polo 2.0. Willem and Mandi Hugo somewhat unfortunate to finish eighth overall having lost some five minutes with a punctured right rear tyre on SS4 and then incurring 22 minutes in lateness when they discovered there was no wheelspanner on board the Griffin Transport S5 Subaru Impreza STi 4x4 Turbo 2.0. There is no truth in the rumour that there will be one less member returning to Namibia though.

Shaun Jones and Craig Gray regretted their decision to mothball the championship winning Subaru in favour of their BMW and ninth overall might have been fun, but they would be wanting to mix it at the head of the field come Malmesbury on 1 April 2017, and it is not just an April fools joke! John and Weston Peiser second fastest on five of the seven stages, yet tenth place was their reward! Expect this father and son combination to come back guns ablaze as their sporting gesture in the Overberg may well prove costly.

Andy Haigh-Smith and Tania Vermaak certainly grew as a team and by the end of the event the AHS Racing S3 CPMCC Mitsubishi Lancer GT1600 was looking good. Set to be present at the York Timber national rally in Mpumalanga with a Scottish crew on board the “Yellow Submarine” simply continues to impress. John and Derick Clift driving consistently enroute to twelfth overall in their S4 Toyota Hilux with Armien Levy and Jean-Pierre Jacobs well pleased in thirteenth overall. The final classified finishers Julian Calvert and Terry Croy in their S3 VW Golf 3 2.0.

Good news is that Koos Rabe was discharged from hospital on the same day and though the misfortune of the veteran marshal delayed the start of the stage his well being was worth the wait. Kesevan Naidoo and his team truly deserve credit for a most enjoyable rally, a fact supported by the large number of spectators in attendance as they were able to watch every team at each of the spectator points. The spectators points also proving to be very entertaining and not the normal blast past. Compliments too to the spectators who left the areas as they found them with no sign of litter anywhere!

Title sponsors, iKapa Reticulation and Flow well supported by Peninsula Instrumentation Hydraulics and Murway Motors. Oelies Fourie and his team at  Overberg Agrimark Klipdale for the many hours of behind the scenes work.

Jacques and Leon Botha certainly threw down the gauntlet with the wild Scoobie and hopefully they will return in the company of Dick Cornelissen and his even wilder Scoobie. Stephanie Hugo was also present in the Overberg and the children are growing up quickly.

Richard Slamet flew the Namibian flag high in the Western Cape and rumours are rife that the I&S Freight Services Run X might just be present in the Swartland too, with even more Namibian teams showing interest in competing locally. Early days yet, but 2017 promises to be a great year for Western Cape rallying.

Also congratulations to Leon and Elsabe Botha who celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in the Western Cape.