TOP OF THE CROP: 2014 Tour Natal winner and reigning SA National Rally S2000 champions Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee in action. Image: Supplied
DURBAN, kwaZulu-Natal - Some interesting and exciting innovations will be introduced when the two-day Tour Natal Rally, the opening round of the 2015 South African National Rally championship, gets under way in Scottburgh, kwaZulu-Natal, on February 27.This “power stage” at Isontevideo, next to the Scottburgh airport, will see the running order reversed with the slower competitors running the stage first. Besides the inverted grid there will also be a knock-out competition.
These innovations, aimed at adding more value to the rally spectacle and making it even more exciting for spectators, will include a “power stage” (in the same vein as the power stages run in the World Rally Championship) on the final day.
At the end of the stage a hot seat area will be demarcated adorned with a couch where competitors setting the fastest time for the stage will sit in waiting. As the faster cars negotiate the stage and the stage times tumble, the crews setting the previous fastest time will move down the couch until literally being knocked off the bench and in the end only the stage winners will remain on the couch.
The deputy Clerk-of-the-Course Jimmy Dewar said the route for the “power stage’ would be right next to the airport runway so there will be ample parking and vantage points for spectators.
Dewar said: “We will be running this stage three times during the course of Saturday...the final time as the ‘power stage’.
“To make it even more exciting there will be a spot in the stage where the cars will get airborne. Prizes and trophies will be awarded to the teams entertaining the crowds with the longest and most spectacular jump."
Another change this year will be that the participating crews will have two opportunities to reconnoitre the route ahead of the rally.
The president of the National Rally Commission and Clerk-of-the-Course for the Tour Natal, Richard Leeke, said rudimentary pace notes would be made available to competitors but they would be allowed to do two reconnaissance runs before the event.
“This will give the crews enough opportunity to refine their pace notes for the event,” said Leeke. The top eight seeded drivers in the two principal categories of the championship – the all-wheel drive S2000 and the two-wheel drive S1600 classes – will draw their start position for the event.
Dewar said that this year’s route for the Tour Natal Rally would be quite similar to last year’s with a centralised service park and the first three stages after the start at the Scottburgh Country Club to be repeated for a total of six stages on day one.
On the Saturday another five special stages would be run on the fast loose gravel roads in the sugar-cane farmlands of the South Coast for a total of 11 stages over a distance of about 400km.
Dewar said: "While entries only close at the end of this week we expect the crème of South African special-stage rally teams to gather for the traditional opening round in the Scottburgh area. We've already received some entrants for the new NRC2 class for older four-cylinder two-wheel drive cars and we also expect some entries for the new Challenge and entry-level series."
Meanwhile, planning for the Sasol Rally, Round 2 of the SA National Rally championship and the Africa Rally Championship, is also on track.
The event, which will take part in its traditional home towns of Sabie, Graskop, White River and Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, will also aim to entertain the fans with the spectacular and very popular Spaghetti Junction super-special being run twice.
There will be eight rounds in this year’s series with a team’s seven best results counting towards the championship.Here are the dates:
2015 South African Rally championship calendar
February 27/28 Tour Natal Rally, KZN
April 17/18 Sasol Rally, Mpumalanga
May 15/16 Secunda Rally, Mpumalanga
June 19/20 Toyota Rally, Gauteng / Bela-Bela, Gauteng/Limpopo
July 17/18 Volkswagen Rally, Eastern Cape
August 14/15 Cullinan Rally, Gauteng
September 18/19 Toyota Cape Rally, Western Cape
October 16/17 Polokwane Rally, Limpopo
IMPORTANT BUSINESS: The draw for the start positions of the top eight cars. Image: Supplied