After claiming a confidence-inspiring third overall and class N4 win on the opening round of the eight-event series in Natal earlier this month in their familiar L&J Plant Services Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Johnny Gemmell and Greg Godrich are hoping to maintain their championship challenge after an awful 2003 season.
The Western Cape has been both cruel and kind to Gemmell, as he scored his first ever victory there in 2001 but retired from the lead of the second Cape event in 2003.
"Hopefully we have sorted out our problems and can look forward to a good run in the Cape. I enjoy the flowing roads through the farmlands and high-speed nature of the event", said Gemmell.
The current Production Car and class N4 champions, Schalk Burger and Vito Bonafede, lost a podium finish in Natal due to a puncture on their brand new Bridgestone Subaru SA Impreza WRX STi.
Built by Prodrive in the UK, Burger's car arrived the day before the Tour Natal Rally started, yet he quickly found his feet in his new supercar, and claimed two overall stage wins.
"I'm delighted with the car and look forward to a clean run in the Cape. Hopefully, we will be much closer to the top class A8 cars", said Burger.
After a pre-event computer failure, which necessitated borrowing o new unit from a fellow competitor, Callie van der Merwe/Gideon Trollip claimed a steady eighth position overall and third in class in their Mobil Subaru Impreza GT.
"The car was running at 70% of what it should have", said Van der Merwe, another hopeful of showing his true 2004 form to the Cape spectators.
After driving his first ever wet rally, Nicholas Ryan acquitted himself well in the slippery cane field stages to claim a solid 10th place at the finish.
With support from Bosal and a new livery for the Cape event, Ryan and co-driver Brian Carrihill are aiming to maintain their early season form. Suspension developments should help Ryan get closer to the front-running pace.
Mally Saville and Dean Redelinghuys, in their new Auto Services Subaru Impreza WRX RA, have done some further suspension development work to sort the car's handling more to Saville's liking.
The similar Metmeister/Outsurance Impreza RA of Visser du Plessis retired in stage two in Natal after co-driver Johan Smalberger fell ill. Thilo von Westernhagen will rejoin du Plessis for the 2004 season, and he is super-confident that he will be on the pace from the start.
Two impressive debutants for Team Subaru were Barry Grobbelaar/Mike Burrows (Sasol Subaru WRX) and Capetonians Stephan van Dyk/Mark Pym (House of Subaru/Revolution Technologies Impreza WRX STi).
Grobbelaar has been absent from the sport for a year and van Dyk for three years, but both made a strong start to the season. Grobbelaar will miss the Cape event due to business commitments, but van Dyk and Pym should be strong on home soil and aim to make amends for their time-related exclusion from a competitive 11th position.
Jose Ferreira/Miguel da Costa (Italian Panelbeaters Impreza GT), Lola and Megan Verlaque (Sasol Rally Chicks Impreza WRX) and Joel/Anneke Ritson (Dent Doctor Impreza Sportwagon WRX) are aiming to get their championship campaigns off the ground with a good helping of points.
All three retired from the opening round which was held in soaking wt conditions.
Rounding out the Team Subaru line-up are rookies Japie van Niekerk/Mark Boekee in their New Africa Developments Impreza WRX STi.
After a thrilling second overall on their first ever rally, a regional event, they came back to earth with a bang on the first national event, finding themselves under-prepared. "We will put that right before the next event", vowed Van Niekerk.