Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle may have regained the lead of the South African National Rally Championship during the previous event – but with just two rounds to go, they’re also fully aware of the threat to their championship aspirations.
This threat comes in the form of Ford’s Richard Leeke and navigator Henry Kohne, who are just three points adrift in the standings, with two events to run. But, if anything, the moment swung back in Botterill/Vacy-Lyle’s favour after their victory on the HMC Electrothread Rally, which took place in Bronkhorstspruit on 18 and 19 August, 2017. The pair found themselves on the back foot going into the event, having lost the lead in the championship. But a fine performance on Round 5 of the 7-round championship sees them back at the top of the standings.
“As things stand, the gap between us and Richard is a slim one,” explains Botterill. “But the reality is that only the top six scores count towards the championship. Even though it might be a bit early to start looking at those permutations, the reality is that we are in better shape than the standings suggest.”
While this is certainly the case, Botterill/Vacy-Lyle are acutely aware of the pressure to perform in Caledon. This event, dubbed the Overberg Grand Prix, is known for its many flat-out sections, with blind crests that test the mettle of drivers and navigators alike. At the same time, even a small mistake over a blind crest can cause a massive crash – so finding the balance between going flat out and finishing the event will most likely be the hardest part of the rally.
“We’ve prepared our Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Etios meticulously for this event,” continues Botterill. “The car is normally highly reliable, but we can’t afford to take any chances at this point.”
The Caledon Rally gets under way at 14:50 on Friday, 22 September in the town of Caledon. Four stages will be run on Friday, with eight more following on Saturday. The total race distance for the event will be just shy of 150 km, after which only the season-closing Goldfields Rally, in Welkom remains. The final round is scheduled for 20 and 21 October 2017.
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Pictures: Waldo van der Waal