TAKING ON BELA-BELA: Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk Van Heerden (Toyota Etios) will have their work cut out for them in the S1600 class at the 2015 Bela-Bela rally from June 19 - 20. Image: Dave Ledbitter
BELA-BELA, Limpopo - The short, tight and challenging Bela-Bela Rally in Limpopo is the halfway point of the 2015 National Rally championship, a make-or-break event for a number of teams.
As was the case in 2014, the rally, to be hosted in the historic town of Bela-Bela ('the pot that boils’ in Tswana), formerly known as Warmbaths, from June 19 to 20, will be compact.
The Rally Commission of Motorsport SA devised an event with virtually each stage not more than 10km from rally HQ and the service area.
The total stage distance for the two days will be 178km and the open sections linking the stages total only 55km, making it easy for spectators to watch stages and visit the service park without travelling long distances.
A two-pass reconnaissance of the route, which is open to all competitors, is scheduled for Thursday (June 18) and scrutineering of the cars at Century 21, Bela Bela Waterfront from 18:00pm to 20:00pm will be open to the public.
Four stages will be run on Friday, with a ceremonial start from the Bela Mall in Mark Street at 12pm. Rally headquarters will be at the Forever Resort with the service area opposite the road at the old caravan park.
There will be an overnight stop at Bela-Bela on Friday before the rally resumes for the final six special stages at 8am on Saturday. The rally will finish at 2:30pm on Saturday at the Forever Resort.
The longest special stage, the Towoomba Farm, will cover 27km (Stage six, repeated as Stage 9 on Saturday) and the shortest, a 10km sprint at the Bela-Bela Waterfront (Stage 2), repeated as Stage 4 on Friday).
TREAT FOR PUPILS
One of the liaison sections on Friday see competitors race through the Bela-Bela Extension 8 Township and Stage 7 on Saturday will cross the same area. On Friday, pupils of the Thusanang Special School, will be given the opportunity to see the cars and meet the competitors.
The Rotary Club has also thrown its weight behind the event and will again turn the Dunlop Service Park into a Rotary International Fan Park for duration. The service break in Bela-Bela on Friday and Saturday will allow spectators and fans the opportunity to get close to the cars, drivers and navigators.
Given the short and compact nature of the event reigning champions Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Yaris) will have their work cut out if they want to stay in the hunt for the 2015 championship.
With Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) victorious in three consecutive events, the Toyota pair needs to win in the Waterberg to keep their championship bid alive.
The same applies to third-placed Gugu Zulu, now with Hilton Auffray in the navigator’s seat, in his Volkswagen Polo. Besides keeping his championship hopes alive, Zulu needs a good result if he wants to keep Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan (Yaris) behind him.
A good result will also be crucial in the hotly contested S1600 class. With Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk Van Heerden (Toyota Etios), Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (VW Polo R2) and Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Etios) separated by only three points a good performance in the Waterberg will be advantageous going into the second part of the season.
Chairman of the Rally Commission of Motorsport SA, Richard Leeke, said: “We are indebted to the landowners for allowing us to use their private roads, both to access the special stages and for the special stages themselves. With their support we can now look forward to another exciting event in the Waterberg.”
WATCH THE ACTION ONLINE
Good news for rally enthusiasts, you can watch the action on TV broadcasts via SuperSport as well as a new online channel for the National Rally championship.
Rally footage is continually uploaded and eventually, MSA reports, all rallies of the last few seasons will be available for online viewing. The S2000 footage for the Secunda Motor Rally will be available soon.
Click here to view the NRC channel