Close championship battles will continue on Rally South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal on August 17 and 18 with round five of the South African Rally Championship taking on an important dual role.
The rally will also double up as the candidate event to bring a round of the World Rally Championship to South Africa in 2014. South Africa is in a head to head battle with another country to stage a WRC event, and Rally South Africa has an important role to play in showcasing South Africa’s ability to stage an event of this nature.
The event is also likely to play a role in sorting out a logjam at the top of the championship table. After their win on a wet VW Rally in the Eastern Cape the Team Castrol Toyota Auris pair of Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan lead Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Sasol Racing Rally Ford) by just three points.
Former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley (Basil Read Ford) are seven points behind Cronje and Houghton with Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey, in the second Sasol Ford, a further two points adrift.
“Many people within the motorsport fraternity have long cherished a dream of bringing a round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) to South Africa,” said Steve Harding, Rally South Africa clerk of the course. “The country is made up of provinces and cities that have suitable road and venue infrastructure to host world class events.
“South Africans have in recent years demonstrated the organisational skills to pull off big events, and now it's time to do the same for rallying”
Harding added that as a candidate event special stages for Rally South Africa had been carefully selected to be as close as possible to stages on the proposed WRC event.
The nine special stages on the route for Rally South Africa will cover approximately 90 percent of the proposed route of the first two days of the WRC event.
Rally headquarters will be at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban with day one opening with a 9,5 kilometre special stage followed by a 38 kilometre special stage in the Valley of a 1000 Hills and around the Inanda Dam. A brief service in a remote village is followed by a 24 kilometre special stage which largely follows the course of the Umgeni River.
An open section will take crews back to the Moses Mabhida Stadium. After a short rest competitors will then tackle a short promotional super special stage on the fringes of downtown Durban.
Day two of Rally South Africa will be centred around Richmond about 30 kilometres west of Pietermaritzburg. The first special stage will be a test over 30 kilometres through high quality forest roads and will take crews past a Rally Village which will offer spectacular spectating.
After the first service halt of the day at the Richmond Country Club there is another long stage on fast flowing public gravel roads. This leads to a forest stage of an entirely different character before returning to the Richmond Country Club for a second service.
The penultimate stage of the day is a repeat of the first forest stage which will again give spectators in the Rally Village an opportunity to get close to the action. The day will close off with a repeat of the promotional special stage in Durban.
Total distance of the event will be approximately 520 kilometres. Of this about 185 kilometres will comprise special stages.
“There is nothing like pressure to galvanise an organising team,” said Harding. “We look forward to staging a uniquely African candidate event and as for WRC, bring it on, South Africa is ready.”