Theuns Joubert, Letsitele’s 2021 national rally champion for drivers, along with his co-driver Schalk van Heerden, continued their quest for ultimate championship glory in their Salom Arbeid Toyota Yaris S2000 in the premier NRC1 class this past weekend.
The third and fourth double-header rounds of the South African National Rally Championship (NRC) with the backing of MRF Tyres, was held on Friday the 10th and Saturday the 11th in Secunda, Mpumalanga.
Championship rivals Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle’s Gazoo Toyota Starlet took a 14 seconds victory in the first stage over Joubert and van Heerden the Friday morning. Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich’s Rally Technic Hyundai i20 was third fastest.
Joubert and van Heerden then struck back in the second stage with a two-second victory over Botterill and Vacy-Lyle, with Coertse and Godrich in close attendance.
The rally-leading Starlet’s engine sounded a bit rough as Coertse and Godrich in the Hyundai took their turn to defeat Botterill and Vacy-Lyle in stage three, with Joubert and van Heerden close behind. Botterill and Vacy-Lyle were concerned about turbo issues, but still led Joubert by 16 seconds, with Coertse and Godrich in third place.
Replacing that turbocharger ultimately cost Botterill and Lyle eight minutes out in the service park. They received a 1 minute and 20 seconds penalty which handed Coertse and Godrich’s Hyundai i10 the lead from Joubert and van Heerden with Botterill and Vacy-Lyle now lying third on the road and 47 seconds off the lead.
Botterill came out with all guns blazing to win the fourth stage by almost 20 seconds from Coertse, who also took nine seconds out of Joubert, giving the Hyundai a slender overall lead.
Another victory of 19 seconds in stage 5 over Joubert and van Heerden saw Botterill and Vacy-Lyle closed the gap even further to the Salom Arbeid Yaris pair, who in the meanwhile moved into a 10 second lead over Coertse and Godrich. The Botterill Starlet was now just three seconds adrift in third place. Joubert eventually settled for second place overall.
It was all action with an all-new rally for Saturday’s fourth round of the NRC. Botterill and Vacy-Lyle was in good stead from the outset in the Gazoo Toyota Starlet to win the first stage from Coertse and Godrich in the Rally Technic Hyundai i20.
There was however drama when frontrunners Joubert and van Heerden’s NRC1 Salom Arbeid Toyota Yaris lost close to 14 minutes after breaking a wheel rim.
The Gazoo Starlet pair gained a further 25 seconds to lead over Coertse and Godrich, with Joubert and van Heerden second fastest on the stage. Joubert and van Heerden then broke Botterill and Vacy-Lyle’s overall charge with a stage 3 win over the leaders, who were hobbled by a side shaft issue.
Botterrill and Vacy-Lyle went on to win the fourth round by two minutes and one second from Coertse and Godrich in the RallyTechnic Hyundai i20. Joubert and van Heerden’s Salom Toyota Yaris battled on to finish ninth overall.
The MRF South African Rally Championship will now move on to Port-Elizabeth, now known as Gqeberha, for the fifth and sixth rounds of the NRC that will be held at the Longmore Forest in the Eastern Cape on the 16th and 17th of July.