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'Spirit' winners named in Namib

2012-08-15 13:40

THAT'S THE SPIRIT! 2012 Spirit of Africa off-road driving competition winner Jaacie Visagie (left) with Sarel van der Merwe, co-winner and sister Irma Schoeman and Jaco Steenekamp of VW Commercial Vehicles at the prize presentations.


The 20 finalists - in teams of two - have been chosen for the 2012 VW Amarok Spirit of Africa. Motorsport veteran Sarel van der Merwe will shortly be leading them over the border into Namibia for the finals tests and big-money prizes. Good luck, guys and girls!

Brother and sister Jaacie Visagie and Irma Schoeman have emerged as 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa champions from the 4x4 finals at Aussenkehr farm in southern Namibia.
And it was a tough contest, possibly the toughest of the eight annual contests, with the winning score 62% compared to 87% in 2011.
The event’s boss, race and rally driver, Sarel van der Merwe, said the terrain on the northern bank of the Orange River, 25km from Vioolsdrif border post, was spectacular but very difficult with sand dunes to rock climbs.


The 20 tests included technical exercises, usually carried out at very slow speeds, and high-speed tests.
The runner-up team was Callie Otto and Neels Labuschagne and third place went to Piet and Madelien Kotze, double winners of the event already. Christiaan Otto from Bultfontein, winner in 2010 and 2011, was fourth with his wife Chane.
Making up the top 10 were Tiaan and Sanet Theunissen with 1123 points, Nico van Staden and Soon Bezuidenhout (1090), Salomon and Anton Victor (1036), Juan Grant and Douw Roode (987), Leon and Lienkie Labuschagne (976) and Andre and Yvonne de Villiers (950).
The top three teams won cash prizes of R50 000, R30 000 and R10 000.
Multiple former National rally champion Hergen Fekken, now a works VW rally driver, was 13th in his first attempt at the Spirit.  He was teamed with his Uncle Roelof, a former works rally driver. Both live in Pretoria.

“It was an awesome experience,” Hergen said. “Sarel created a very tough challenge and it was a great experience shared with my favourite uncle.”
Van der Merwe was impressed by the high standard of driving and vehicle control.  “Each year we’ve seen an improvement in the level of skills and have been encouraged by the increase in younger competitors.”
The tests used VW 2.0 TDI Amarok single-cabs. “We had no major mechanical problems,” Van said. “Each of the 20 finalists can buy their bakkie - I expect quite a few will do just that.
“Danielle (Mrs. Van) and I and our team will now take a well-earned break before we set our minds to Spirit of Africa 2013.”

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