Etienne Malherbe and Patrick Vermaak arrived at Mentorskraal Country Lodge Jeffrey’s Bay 06h00 Friday 7 July 2023 and after having signed on for the single pass Recce piled into the service van of Oliver de Man. Having had a very brief look at the Jemba safety notes during the week weather conditions was certainly going to influence the various calls as it was anticipated that many corners would have standing water on the inside and some unexpected muddy patches to boot.
Compliments to the organisers for their obvious efforts to provide brilliant roads for the 2023 edition of the Algoa Rally as hardly any standing water was encountered and the roads in general were sound. We did hear the mention of Stu Davidson & Sons assisting enroute.
In 2022 we had the pleasure to contest this event in an ex-works Toyota Conquest 4×4 albeit with a standard 2.0 Turbo engine and though we were forced to complete virtually the entire event with shockabsorber problems it certainly was an honour and Oliver de Man made a lasting impression with his obvious dedication to rallying in the region.
If you are a supporter of the classic Datsun / Nissan factory cars, Border Towing / Martin van Zummeren and family, have certainly become the custodians of these machines, owning amongst others both the Hannes Grobler and Wiel Nissan Skylines. Sadly, neither was present in Jeffreys Bay, but Jody van Zummeren was there in the very neat Bryan Heine developed Datsun P510 Coupé. An “old” car filled with all the correct gear and two eager youngsters in control that should never be underestimated.
The No 54 1974 Datsun 160U SSS of Etienne Malherbe really is 49 years old, the driver adding another 59 and the navigator 61 to tally at 169 years. Is there an older combination around these days?
Oliver de Man had a hand in almost every “old” Toyota present and found himself in a former Leif Asterhag – Jan Hettema Toyota Corolla RWD 2.0. It would probably not be far off the mark to state that between Martin van Zummeren and Oliver de Man they could possible put enough cars on the road to host their own event. And then you realise that this the Eastern Cape, breeding ground for anything Volkswagen!
A quick walk through the holding area did confirm the absence of “Piesang” and it was something of a disappointment as this Escort MkII is normally quite quick and reliable. Most encouraging was the presence of many old friends, family and former colleagues – it would seem Jeffreys Bay is a popular spot for retirement as well as surfing! Or would it rather be the fact that it is simply close to Longmore Forest?
The now customary parade through town certainly made the presence of the Algoa Rally well known, but it was a little disappointing to not see the extremely popular town stage on the itinerary, something almost everyone spoken to in town also regretted as this stage really sets the scene with every seat in every restaurant filled to capacity in anticipation of the street action. Would certainly give serious thought to getting it back in 2024.
Mentorskraal Country Lodge was most certainly a perfect, central, host for the event as it kept rally traffic out of the already congested roads (there was a world championship surfing competition brewing and even Jonty Rhodes was spotted in town) allowing easy access for both crews and spectators. And the prospect of night stages in Longmore was really something exciting.
A total of 28 crews started day one, 11 as national entries and 17 regional. Our fun started immediately when the freshly replaced gear selector in the Datsun decided to give Etienne a little more exercise than initially anticipated. An early elbow in the gut told me something was amiss as he failed to find either second on the downshift or third on the up shift. Being much more of a gentleman than me he remained quite calm about this and mumbled something about knowing exactly what the problem was – but, that he would simply have to drive around the problem.
Rather frustrating when the car was pulling like a proverbial train, the driver was really in the mood to wag the tail and navigating through the side windows became a little more exciting as missing those cogs did not always happen at the most convenient moments.
Age was one thing, but as Francois Jordaan put it very eloquently, Etienne and myself “sit die Datsun stofdig” and there was not much space for him to swing those elbows. The most disappointing element was the inevitable loss of momentum and time, but we were running and running well when everything hooked up.
Hendrik advised that the mud hole at the end of one was not too deep and could be tackled flatout – however he failed to add that it would act as a massive suction pump which would have the Datsun come to an almost immediate stop! As our eyeballs returned to their sockets the end of stage timing gear survived being run over by a few millimeters whilst the inside of the old Datsun looked as though someone have given it a high pressure wash – with mud! Apologies to the control marshal who could not find a dry enough spot to enter the time on the Time Card.
Haemorrhaging time with the gearshift made it difficult to determine just how much time we were losing, but we were having fun and simply drove as hard as the Datsun would allow (and it was pretty impressive when it worked) through stages 2, 3, 4. Simply having another stab at Longmore was enough to forget any minor hassles such as a flat left front tyre near the end of SS3.
The benefit of age is that we both remember the joys of night rallying and SS5 was great except for another flat left front tyre. Now no comments from you Francois Jordaan! Kan my net voorstel wat in die PMC nuusbrief sou wees as jy en Leon Botha die pen sou bestuur het! Met voorletters as chemiese simbool vir Lood, tweede naam wat mooi berg beteken, kos ek die Datsun minstens 3kW in krag aldus Hannes Grobler se evaluasies en ja, ek sit aan die linkerkant …….
Arriving at Mentorskraal after another dunking in the mud it was a new experience to arrive at a Parc Fermé that was, for all practical purposes, non existent. The top three regional cars were having their own rostrum celebrations and with no Parc Fermé controls we felt rather lost for a moment.
A sixth place ARC overall, third in class ARC3 and 1st Clubmans had us feeling motivated for Saturday despite the fact that we were down to a single dry spare with two wets. More concerning was the fact that there were no obvious reasons as to why the tyres were puncturing and no time to have them fixed either. Die “soplepel” gear changing was now an accepted norm which we could manage with obvious loss in time recorded.
Saturday included a monster 38km stage, a prospect we were really looking forward to as the plucky little Datsun felt good. The idea simply to be cautious with the tyres as we simply had no reserves. We completed the opening diving session much dryer and on almost the identical time and headed for SS2.
Murphy is many things, but not a friend, and nine kilometers later we were forced to stop and change the left rear tyre (OK Francois, ek weet watter kant is links). Now driving a Classic Rally Car is one thing, but when the driver insists on even keeping the tools classic it somehow seems to miss the point as crossover wheelbraces sound like something veterans wear and do not aid quick wheel changes! One by one they passed us ………… and time ticked on by ……..
It did however get Etienne motivated and SS3 was good fun. We were really looking forward to the popular spectator point in the middle of SS4 and then a strange scraping noise had the rear drop a little without feeling like a puncture. Instead of spraying stones through the spectator point we opted for a chat with old friends as Etienne announced that the right rear hub had broken and we were now dragging the tail on the ground. No 38km stage for us this year ………
It was fun, really good fun, to be back in a tail wagging rear wheel drive with a driver who truly loves driving sideways. Yes, we almost certainly would have been recording better times if …………………….. and could possibly have been quicker had we remained straighter down the straights – but could you see the sheer pleasure on our faces when it stayed sideways!
Motorsport is a cruel mistress at the best of times.
Thank you to Etienne Malherbe and the Ocean Truck Sales team of Oliver de Man for another great weekend. Results are important but enjoying every second is importander! And we did.
Compliments to Jody van Zummeren and James Johnson who got stronger as the weekend progressed. Yes, that is a very well built Datsun but it requires a steady hand to bring it home and you certainly did that well.
Unknowns to me, but certainly clean and neat everywhere a great result for Juan and Tarryn van Rooyen clearly attracted more attention with the King of Longmore and the Tissot awards.
Deon Kretzman and Jason Schreiber another combination who grew in stature in their Triple L Plant Polo (would that have an association with the old Ford test stage?)
Riekus Schmidt and Marco Griessel found a solution for their lack of power by simply never lifting off the throttle and fourth place was impressive. Francois Laubscher and Mark Irvine recovered to fifth spot overall and 1st Clubmans with Conquest mates Jeandrë Marais and Tegan Taljaard sixth.
Oliver de Man and Craig Stepp showed that they were also coming to terms with the RWD Corolla in seventh with Eddie Banks and Morris Brown really enjoying their Toyota powered BMW in 8th spot.
Ninth and tenth went to possibly the most admirable rally team in South Africa as the Daniel Pienaar Motorsport effort consists of scholars driving with teachers navigating. Ulrich Roberts and Mr Wesley Schultz brought the Golf MkI home ninth and De Villiers Wessels and Mr Francois Anker finished tenth in the VW Polo. Francois Vermaak sportingly not entering as driver to ensure that matters run smoothly for the school. Keep up the good work!
To the organisers, thank you for great stages and a pleasant atmosphere. To the officials, marshals who volunteer their services in any weather to allow us the pleasure to rally – a huge thank you. And in no small measure each and every sponsor who support our sport – you are much appreciated.
To Owen Jones and Aden Bredenkamp, the defending Western Cape champions, cruel luck with your on board fire. Hopefully damage proves less extensive and we will see you back on the All Tar on 5 August 2023.
Jeandré Coetzer and Vincent Viljoen were lucky that there were no judges of fact present to record their shortcut down the side of the mountain, fortunately new underwear should have them back soon. It is not how many times you fall that count, it is how many times you get up and improve that makes the difference.
Johan Viljoen, I really appreciate your opening prayers at each event but, geez slow down a little please, ou Datsuns sukkel om by te hou.
When you arrive at the start of a rally with two cars? Nick Davidson, then you can certainly arrange a flypast by the Sea Fury too! Pretty sure Patrick Davidson would not mind ………
There are many to thank but it was great seeing the likes of Lance and Rosemarie Maytham back spectating with Roël and Christa Bester, Thorsten and Doreen Pey, Tertius Nortjé, Phillip Nortjé, Liezl Oosthuizen, Dirk and Elmarie Hechter, Ian Thomson and Johan “Sterkman” Strydom to name a few.
Nouja Hendrik, in 2024 sal daardie Datsun 50 jaar vier!
Published by: Patrick Vermaak
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