The final round of the South African Rally Championship, the Garden Route Rally in the Western Cape on November 2 and 3, will see a slightly amended version of the qualifying stage that was introduced this year.
The purpose of the qualifying stage, which does not count towards the actual rally result, is to allow the winner to choose his starting position and avoid being first on the road. This is because the cars that start first invariably perform the role of ‘sweepers’, removing the loose stones from the gravel roads and providing the cars that follow with better grip from their tyres and the chance to record faster stage times.
The driver finishing second in the qualifying stage will choose his start position next and so on until the driver who finished 10th most likely ends up with start position number one.
“Having a qualifying stage offers the spectators an extra opportunity to view the cars in action close to the host town and also represents a logistical and tactical challenge to the teams, who must use four of the 18 tyres they are allocated for the entire event,” explained Richard Leeke, president of the rally commission of Motorsport South Africa.”
Previously only the top 10 drivers in the official seeding took part in the qualifying stage, but this meant that some quick crews, who were outside the top 10 for whatever reason, enjoyed a tyre advantage by not having used any tyres before the start of the rally proper.
“So for this event, instead of only the top 10 drivers in the official seeding competing in this short stage, we will have all the competitors in the premier S2000 class for four-wheel drive cars participating,” said Leeke.
“After the first 10 have chosen their start positions, the 11th fastest driver will choose and so on until we get to the slowest of the S2000 drivers. In this way everybody has to use four of their allocated tyres before the start of the rally proper.” The rest of the field, consisting of the two-wheel drive S1600 class and class S20 for regional competitors will start according to their official seeding positions.
The qualifying stage for the Garden Route Rally will start at 09:00 next to the Garden Route Mall outside George. Spectator guides will be available at the mall, which will host the rally headquarters, scrutineering and documentation on Friday morning and also the official start of the rally at 12:00.
There will be a total of five gravel special stages on Friday with an overnight stop at the Wilderness Beach Hotel.
Saturday’s action gets underway from the Wilderness Beach Hotel at 07:00. The start order will, as usual, be in the order in which the cars finished day one, with the overnight leaders going off first. There will be four special stages before the finish back at the Wilderness Beach Hotel in the afternoon, where there will be a podium ceremony and prize-giving.
“We wish to thank K1 Quarry, Tippeton Construction and Silverton Radiators for sponsoring the preparation of the qualifying stage,” said clerk of the course Joe Fourie.
“We have had incredible support from landowners, businesses and the community for staging our season finale in the southern Cape and we’re confident it will provide a fitting finale to what has been one of the best and most closely contested championships in years.”
By Charmaine Fortune
SA Rally Exco
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