2018 Trade Brands Tour Natal Rally

For the first round of the 2018 National Rally Championship, the Natal motor Cycle and Car Club took a bold decision to move the event from its home for the past 10 years

The event has traditionally been run on the KZN South Coast centred around Scottburgh. The reason has been that the gravel roads on the local sugar estates are widely regarded as the best special stage roads in RSA.   The iconic Ellingham Estate is jewel in the crown with its  20+ kilometres of smooth, wide,  fast and  twisty flowing  roads

The huge population growth around Ballito encouraged the organisers to make the change to bring Motor Sport to the people rather than hoping the crowds will come to the event. This decision appealed to the sponsors and it seems that the move has been richly rewarded

The night stage run in the “old Ballito village” is believed to have attracted more than 20 000 spectators making it possibly the most watched stage in South African rally history

The event kicked off on Friday afternoon with two stages just inland from Ballito around the popular  Sugar Rush/Holla mountain bike trails, these two  stages of just over 10 kms each were run in succession  followed by a servicing stop held at a rooftop parking lot in Ballito.  These two stages were repeated in the late afternoon followed by another service stop

After the supper break, competitors moved to the night stage which was due to be run at 19.30

This was delayed due to strict safety considerations with marshals stretched to keep the huge crowds in safe areas The hoped for rear wheel drive Escort BDAs had not entered and the monster 250KW twin turbo BMW of local hero Trevor Graham had blown a turbo on Thursday.  In spite of these absences, the crowds were treated to a scintillating display of fast precision driving in and around kerbs and other obstacles The powerful LED light bars illuminated the already well lit restaurant and pub areas with the huge crowds held spellbound and cheering

At the overnight stop the event was led by Richard Leeke Jnr and Henry Kohne   in their Ford fiesta followed by SA Rally Champions Guy Botterill in their Toyota Etios.   Botterill had lost time having to change a troublesome gearbox

Concerns about competitors encountering mountain bikers on Saturday precluded the use of the stages close to Ballito, so day two commenced with a long drive to Doringkop for Stage 6, some 20kms inland of Stanger. It was here that Richard Vaughan and Yari Brunings in their Toyota Conquest suffered a roll but continued almost without significant loss of time   See Video

Competitors then travelled back towards the coast to Stage 7.  Here a large mostly young crowd had gathered at the official spectator point. This is in contrast to the traditional crowds on the South coast which seem to consist of more “mature” enthusiasts   A most festive atmosphere prevailed with many enjoying their Red Bulls while being kept informed by an enthusiast announcer

From here the event moved back to Ballito for another service break before repeating stages 6 and 7 as Stages 8 and 9.

It was here that the Botterill /Vacy Lyle challenge to the leaders ended when they apparently suffered more gearbox problems   This promoted A C Potgiter and Nico Swartz in their VW Polo into second place

After the second service of the day back at Ballito, crews moved to Stage 10 some 15 kms inland of Ballito. This stage, the longest of the event was repeated after another service and was the longest of the event with spectators having a long drive to the official view point

The podium comprised

1st    Leeke/Kohne                                Ford fiesta       1hr 34m 06 s

2nd Potgieter/Swartz                          VW Polo            1 hr 34m 48 s

3rd  M Vacy Lyle/S van Heerden          Toyota Etios     1hr 35m 38s

In spite of the relatively small entry the event should be regarded as a great success in bringing Motor rallying into the public spotlight and it is hoped that some young spectators may be encouraged to try their hand behind the wheel of a rally car.








By Roger Downard

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