REIGNING RALLY CHAMPIONS: Poulter/Howie need a win at Bela-Bela if the want to keep the Ford pair in their sight. Image: Dave Ledbitter
BELA-BELA, Limpopo - Not only does the second edition of the Bela-Bela Motor Rally in Limpopo Province mark the halfway mark in the 2015 National Rally Championship, it also promises to be the pot boiler of the season…
For many teams the rally over June 19/20, centred on the historic town of Bela-Bela (“the pot that boils’ in the local language, Tswana), formerly known as Warmbaths – derived from the geothermic hot springs around which the town is built – will be a make-or-break event.
One such team is the reigning champions from the Toyota squad, Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee. With the Ford Performance pair Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton victorious in three events on the trot the Toyota team need a win in the Waterberg badly if they want to stay in the hunt for the championship.
Poulter and Coetzee initially did well in the inaugural event, the season finale last year. They finishing the first day in the lead, but a misfire on the second day led to their retirement.
HOTLY CONTESTED S1600 CLASS
This year they will need better luck on the 10-special stage two-day rally, while in the hotly contested S1600 class a good result will be crucial, with only 3 points separating the top three teams of Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk Van Heerden (Toyota Etios), Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (VW Polo R2) and Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios).
The format, like last year, will be compact, making it easy for spectators to watch stages and visit the service park without having to travel great distances. Virtually every stage is just 10km's away from the central rally HQ at Forever Resort and service-park in Bela-Bela.
However, clerk of the course Willie du Plessis indicated the route will be tricky and challenging in places. “It won’t be a high-speed rally, but there are some long straights where the drivers can exercise their right foot and explore the extent of their bravery."
Following on the success of last year’s event a number of innovations from a national championship rally point of view will be included. One of the stages on the Friday (June 19) will run through the Bela-Bela township and on the second day a liaison section will go through the same area.
The route will also pass the Thusanang Special School where the crews will take a 5minute break to give the 400 odd children an opportunity to see the cars and meet the competitors.
A lunchtime service break in Bela-Bela on the Saturday (June 20) will also allow spectators and fans the opportunity to get close to the cars, the drivers and navigators.
In addition to the enthusiastic involvement of the local authorities and land owners the Rotary Club of Warmbaths has also thrown its weight behind the event and they will again turn the service park into a fan park for the weekend.
A two-pass reconnaissance run of the route which is open to all competitors but not obligatory, is scheduled for Thursday (June 18), and the scrutineering of the cars at Century 21 at the Bela-Bela Waterfront from 18:00pm to 20:00pm will also be open to the public.
Four stages will be run on Friday (June 19), with a ceremonial start from the Bela Mall in Mark Street at 1pm. There will be an overnight stop at Bela Bela on Friday before the rally restarts for the final six special stages at 9:00am on Saturday.