Three plays one as the National Rally Championship prepares for a tough double-header in the stunning Merensky forests around the Limpopo town of Tzaneen on August 25 and 26 with JJ Potgieter/Tommy du Toit leading the charge, having won three of the four rounds so far.
Their unbeaten run was halted in the Eastern Cape when Jono van Wyk and Nico Swartz (Toyota Gazoo Racing Starlet) claimed the top step of the podium in Round 4 of the series.
“The Tzaneen event is certainly a favourite for Jono,” says navigator Nico Swartz. “He has won his class here before and after our win in the Eastern Cape the whole team is brimming with confidence. We have a good car, and a good team and the intention is to win both rounds outright.
“However, the forests around Tzaneen present their own challenges. The roads are often quite rough and narrow so it is a lot more technical than some other events and ambition can easily outweigh ability.
“We are going to have to be careful with our approach and look after the car.”
This will not be an easy task as the current series leaders JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit (Hyundai R4) are not going to relinquish that advantage easily and will be pushing hard for outright victory in both rounds – always bearing in mind it is not only Van Wyk they have to worry about.
Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich (Rally Technik Mazda2) are always on the pace and ready to capitalize on any mistakes – the current South African Rally Champions relying, perhaps, a little more on a cautious, but consistent points-scoring approach.
After engine issues in the two opening rounds, Mandla Mdakane and Kes Naidoo in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing Starlet showed significant pace in the Eastern Cape and will be out to make the Tzaneen event count.
“We would love to finish in Tzaneen with a Toyota 1-2,” grinned Swartz.
Scrutineering for cars competing in the National Championship will take place on Thursday evening, August 24 from 18:00 to 20:00 at the NTT Isuzu Dealership in Tzaneen and the rally will start at 12:00 on Friday from the NTT Toyota Dealership in Tzaneen.
There will be seven Special Stages on Friday with SS 6 and SS7 Being the very popular 1,60 km NTT Toyota Town Twister Tar Stage in the Centre of Tzaneen Town, which will be run directly after each other, giving spectators around two hours of jam-packed Rally Action.
The last two stages will see cars starting in reverse order – so the Regional Cars will be ranged from slow to fast followed by the National teams from slow to fast.
The Northern Regions competitors will start their event on Friday evening with SS 6 & 7 NTT Toyota Town Twister Stages instead of the usual Saturday morning.
Round 6 of the Championship will start at 10:15 am on Saturday from the NTT Toyota, and SS1 is the old Mineshaft stage nl. Salom Shooting Range on Friday on gravel only, and Supaquick Test Centre on Saturday, which runs on gravel as well as through the Tzaneen Traffic Testing Centre offering superb spectating.
A 31,00 km stage, known as NTT Isuzu Dam, will be run once on Friday and twice on Saturday and is likely to be a great tester for man and machine.
Stages are mostly run in the Merensky Plantations known as NTT Honda Agatha and repeated on Saturday as C.I.M Lubri Fuel Agatha, NTT Isuzu Dam and the traditional Kanaal stage as PPS Pipeline, but the final stage on Saturday is SS 6 which starts at the Show Grounds at approximately 16:15. The stage runs onto tar in the vicinity of the Show Grounds. The Star Spares Grand Finalé is a great spectator stage in Town.
The local business community of Tzaneen is remarkable. Businesses rallied around the local organizing team again this year to be involved, after the great success of the 2022 NTT Tzaneen Rally.
“The support from the Tzaneen Community, be it business, The local Council, Traffic Department, SAPS, Merensky Plantations or just the rally fan in town is just phenomenal,” says William Louw, Administrator for the National Rally Championship, Organizer and Clerk of Course for the event.
“Tzaneen has been part of the history of Rallying in SA for many years, and we are so excited to be able to go back there again for a 2nd consecutive National and Regional event. We Thank each and every contributor for their efforts and contribution to make the event possible. The competitors are in full prep mode to have their machines in tip top shape,” says Louw. Not forgetting our sincerest thanks to our Championship partner MRF Tyres, Electrothread, Fixed Mobile Telecoms, Mi-Bern Medi – Call, Ctrack, RacedayTV and Trans African Concessions
The Service Park and Rally Head Quarters will be located at the Tzaneen Show Grounds on both days. Spectators are welcome to visit the Service park and view the cars close-up or just have a chat with the Guys and Girls who have nerves of steel.
Spectator Information will be posted shortly. Please follow The NTT Tzaneen Rally on Facebook or check out our website at www.nrcsa.co.za for details. See you in Tzaneen on the 25 – 26th August for spectacular racing.
Published by: William Louw
Photography by: Dries Beetge
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