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They're off! VW Rally starts in Uitenhage

2014-07-11 14:00

VW’S DUTCH/BELGIAN DRIVERS: Holland’s Hans Weijs and Belgium’s Bjorn Degandt will compete in Round 4 of the National Rally championship out of Uitenhage – the VW Rally. Image: Volkswagen

CHARMAINE FORTUNE

UITENHAGE, Eastern Cape  - After a seven-week break the fourth (and halfway) round of the South African National Rally championship, the Volkswagen Rally, got under way with a ceremonial start from VW’s Auto Pavilion in Uitenhage at midday today (July 11 2014).

The top-eight seeded drivers have been taking turns since the beginning of the season to be first on the road over the eight rounds of the championship - generally regarded as being a disadvantage because your car sweeps the road clean of sand and stones and creates an easier surface for the cars behind.

This time it is the turn of privateers Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (Ford Fiesta) to lead the way.

UP FRONT

Seeded eighth at the start of the season, they went to the first of Friday's seven special stages, a brand-new 16km gravel stage on the property of the PE Oval race track at Greenbushes, at 12.23pm. A further four gravel special stages, including two in the Longmore Forest, will follow before the day’s competitive driving ends in the coastal resort town of Jeffrey’s Bay, with two short tarmac stages, the first at the Fountains Mall and the second in the town’s streets, starting at 17.47pm.

Defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta), top seeds going into Round 1, will be next off the ceremonial ramp in Uitenhage and will start the opening stage two minutes after Van Niekerk and Snyman. They will be followed at two-minute intervals by current championship leaders Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Toyota Yaris), the Dutch/Belgian duo of Hans Weijs Jnr/Bjorn Degandt (VW Polo), Giniel de Villiers/Greg Godrich (Toyota Yaris), Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (VW Polo), Hergen Fekken/Carolyn Swan, joint championship leaders and Henk Lategan/Barry White (VW Polo).

Saturday’s action will start from the overnight closed park at the PE Oval in Greenbushes with the overnight leaders and runners-up due to get proceedings under way at 7.48am on a new, 2km super-specialat the PE Oval, where competitors race against each other two at a time.

Six more gravel stages will follow, including three in the Longmore Forest, before a final twokm stage on tar and paving around the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The first car is due to start the final stage at 13.53pm.

The TV podium ceremony and prize-giving will be outside the stadium from at 4pm.
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