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Schalk and Subaru win Cape Rally

2004-09-20 11:36

Schalk Burger and Vito Bonafedeon their way to victory in the Subaru Cape Rally. Picture Danie van Jaarsveld, Motorpics

This was Burger's first national rally win in 32 years of competition and comes at the tail end of his career, Burger having announced his intention to hang up his helmet at the end of the season.

Burger was the first driver to invest in a Subaru rally car in 2000 and won the 2001 African Rally Championship and 2003 and 2004 SA Production Car and class N4 titles as well, crowning a glittering career that also saw Burger compete as a works driver in the '80s.

The Bridgestone Sasol Subaru Impreza WRX Sti crew triumphed by 1 minute 48 seconds over the factory Toyota RunX of Serge Damseaux after a steady start to day 1 before applying the pressure to the overnight leader Richard Behm/Grant St Clair (Mitsubishi Lancer).

Schalk and Vito snatched the lead after an aggressive drive and consolidated their position at the head of the field, using their Impreza's all-wheel drive and power to maximum effect as the stages were turned into slippery tracks by incessant rain.

Career best

Third overall and scoring a career best result were Visser du Plessis andThilo von Westernhagen in their Metmeister Outsurance Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. Day 1 differential problems kept the car in two-wheel drive but this was fixed for the 6 stages making up day 2.

Du Plessis drove with controlled aggression and delivered what he has promised to do all year, beating the multi title winning Toyota ace Serge Damseau by one second in stage 9.

Damseaux had a dramatic moment on day 2 when his car smacked against a post but he and navigator Robert Paisley escaped unhurt, and the car escaped serious damage.

The penultimate stage saw Du Plessis forced to run 4 km with the right front tyre flat, but his rival, Stephan van Dyk, also had a puncture but lost more time than du Plessis.

This elevated du Plessis to third place, but the result was protested by the BP Volkswagen team, whom Visser beat, for an alleged rule infraction.

The protest and possible exclusion is under appeal and the results of the Subaru Cape Rally from third place onwards remain provisional.

Meanwhile BP Volkswagen's Jan Habig staged a stirring comeback after losing over 5 minutes due to a broken side-shaft in the first special stage, eliciting wild cheers from spectators as he pushed his Golf to the limits in his bid to capture as many points as possible.

Rally of attrition

He eventually finished fourth overall after ending day one in 16th position, some six minutes behind the leaders

It was a rally of attrition as the tough conditions put paid to many a front-runner's chances from early on.

Hergen Fekken in his BP Volkswagen Polo lasted all of 200m as he took a jump too fast, digging his sump-guard in and damaging the under-body and radiator in the process.

He and navigator Dave Lewkowicz had to endure the ignominious task of walking back to the starting point.

A few minutes later it was the turn of Etienne Lourens in the Team Total RunX, also retiring due to mechanical problems.

Stephan van Dyk and Mark Pym was another crew to earn their best ever result - the House of Subaru Impreza WRX Sti-mounted team holding third place for most of the event until a puncture over the last 11 kilometres of the final gravel stage dropped them to fifth after recovering from the time lost with a broken gear linkage in stage 9.

Team prizes

With five Subaru teams in the overall top seven, Subaru won the Manufacturer's Award and move back into second place in the Manufacturer's Championship.

Significantly, Damseaux and Paisley finished ahead of their only championship rivals, Jan Habig/Douglas Judd, narrowing the points gap to two.

With dropped scores coming into play, Damseaux and Paisley enjoy a less pressurised 14 points lead going into the final event of the season next month.

To claim his 10th Driver's Championship and Paisley's second crown, the Castrol pairing need to finish the final rally in 12th place or better.

Charl Wilken and Robin Houghton claimed their fourth class N3 win of the year after a difficult event.

The Team Castrol Toyota team's reigning class N3 championship pairing lost over two minutes in the first stage after the throttle position sensor got wet in a water splash, leaving the RunX off-song for 25 km of the stage, only able to limp along at 80 km/h.

Attacking hard over the rest of the event, Wilken, the newly crowned Northern Regions rally champion, reeled in his championship challenger Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan in an identical RunX RSi.

It nearly came undone in stage 6 when the Castrol Toyota landed heavily after a jump, damaging the radiator, which started to leak. The Toyota technicians replaced the unit, but the weakened cradle had to be nurtured, Wilken forced to ease off the ultimate pace over the rougher sections.

Gearbox problems for Visagie ended the class rivalry, and leaves Wilken needing just one point to retain his class N3 title.

Toyota drivers claimed victory in all seven classes in which they compete.

Serge Damseaux and Robert Paisley claimed class A8, Serge's son Jean-Pierre and Cobus Vrey won class A7 in their Corolla, Jakkie Joubert/Willie van Straaten took A6 honours in their JoJo Tanks Corolla, Dolf Coetzee/Irma du Plooy (Toyota Tazz) won A5, Wilken and Houghton (N3), Jon/Douglas Williams (Trident Press Corolla) N2, and Eugene Lourens/Janine Labuschagne (Hitachi Tools Toyota Tazz) won the N1 championship with their third class win of the year.

Toyota has already won their 13th Manufacturer's Championship with two rounds to spare.

The final event of the 2004 season is the Great North Rally on October 15 and 16.

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