LEON BOTHA – LARGER THAN LIFE
July 21, 2021  

Supplied by Motorsport SA Administrator from Motorsport SA
Servicing for the Boonstra couple, Dirkie and Marthilda, during the 1984 South African Rally Championship their class F Dealer Team Toyota Corolla TRD 1600 was pitched against a class F Dealer Team Opel Kadett GL 1600 in the hands of Leon Botha and Terence McPhail. To call the occasional exchange of words phycological warfare would actually be complimenting as it turned into quite a tight class championship.

 


Three very vivid memories spring to mind when the name Leon Botha is mentioned.  I was invited by the minister of defence to try out a set of browns in 1980 and somehow (probably because of them) I found myself at a meeting of the Pretoria Motor Club listening to Leon Botha and Francois Jordaan rambling on about their antics on a previous rally.


Leon Botha also submitted his experiences to the PMC newsletter (cannot recall the name now) and to say that it was normally quite hilarious to read would be an understatement. If anyone still has these monthly newsletters it would be worth the effort to scan and post!


Somehow the contact grew and I found myself on a Castrol Rally. It was a lesson in life as Leon Botha set about driving the Fashion Future class B Volkswagen Golf GTi to destruction (well almost, somehow he left enough for the service crew to somehow get it ready for the next stage).


My apprenticeship on the Golf included the changing of the complete rear axle, two racks of spotlights that somehow disappeared in the scenery enroute to the Nerston border post and of course all class B VW’s simply had to have the gearbox changed. (a few times)


Good thing we recently completed basic training as I was knackered by the time we reached Swaziland and then the message came – they were off! No real damage other than being somewhere way down the side of a hill. No such thing as going home and eventually Jacques Botha and myself continued in support of the service crew for Oudtshoorn based brothers-in-law Mark Johnson and Henk Versnell.


Strike two came in the form of Leon Botha and Francois Jordaan doing the traditional September Swartland national in their Pizza Hut Volkswagen Golf GTi when word came in that they had mowed down a telephone pole – not just anywhere but somewhere near the top of the pole! The Golf and crew survived and another legendary story followed.


Botha did things with total commitment or he stayed home telling everyone those who cared to listen what would have happened. A McCrae at heart his flat-out approach was genuine, the fact that he normally survived to tell the story with side-splitting humour made it credible to believe that he really was fast – but nobody could built anything strong enough for him to prove it!


Then many years later he arrived in the Cape for the Overberg Grand Prix armed with a real standard Gp N4 Subaru, a service van and navigator. No service crew, no spares, no tyres and even less fuel but with the firm belief that he was going to have a great rally chasing Schalk Burger in his state of the art Scoobie.


In true Believe it or Not fashion not only did he beat the much favoured Burger Scoobie he scared his navigator into retirement and won the Gp N4 SA Championship. He proved his point!


He did a brilliant job in bringing the Bill Sturrock Pace Notes to SA rallying and simply could not stop promoting the interests of rallying in South Africa.  


Outspoken (yes), confident (yes), quick (yes) but always brutally honest and genuine. Honestly believe he sometimes enjoyed ruffling a few feathers.


You did not have to support his opinion on any topic, but it helped!


Your early arrival at Parc Ferme was totally unexpected!


Leon Botha – you will always remain a RallyStar!

 

Published by:  Patrick Vermaak    

MSA Publishes media releases from a host of different sources on our website as a service to the sport.  It is not practically possible to vet/approve every release that is published.  Some news items and articles are written by correspondents and do not necessarily represent MSA’s views.

 


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