See forest stage rallying at its best

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IOL mot pic apr8 Sasol Rally Preview Cronje Houghton . Ford Fiesta S2000 crew Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton on thier way to winning an extremely wet and muddy 2013 Sasol Rally. Picture: David Ledbitter

Nelspruit, Mpumalanga - Arguably the highlight of the South African Rally Championship, the Sasol Rally - Round 2 of the national championship and also the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship - returns to the Mpumalanga Lowveld for the 23rd time on 11 and 12 April for a feast of forest special stage racing.

Organised as ever by the South African Motorsport Club under the direction of clerk of the course Willie du Plessis, the familiar gravel forest roads in the Sabie, Graskop, Pilgrim's Rest, White River and Hendriksdal areas will again form the heart of the rally.

Du Plessis said: “There will be 14 special stages - seven each on Friday and Saturday. Four of these will be tarmac stages, including the traditional Sabie and White River town stages on Friday night and, on Saturday, the traditional Nelspruit Super Special, where two cars compete against each other at the same time, and a tarmac stage around the Mbombela soccer stadium.

“The total stage distance is a little more than 200km and, with the liaison sections, about 590km.”

In order to familiarise competitors with the route under FIA African Rally Championship rules, there will be a recce of all the gravel stages on Wednesday 9 April, during which competitors will be allowed to drive over the route twice at a maximum speed of 60km/h - in sharp contrast to the more than 160 some cars will achieve on the actual rally.

There will also be a shakedown stage at Hendriksdal on Thursday 10 April, starting at 1pm and covering about 6.29km of Saturday's 25km special stage 10 and 12. Competitors may repeat this as often as they wish.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

This is a great opportunity for the fans to get a close look at the cars and crews in action before the actual rally starts in Sabie at 10am on Friday.

Day 1 will start with five gravel stages in the timber forests around Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrim's Rest and end with the traditional tarmac night stages in Sabie and White River before the overnight stop in Nelspruit.

Saturday's first stage will be the Super Special in Nelspruit, starting at 8am, with the tarmac stage at the Mbombela stadium immediately afterwards. Four gravel stages will follow in the Hendriksdal and Sabie areas before the rally returns to Nelspruit for the traditional short special stage on grass inside the main arena of the Lowveld Showgrounds.


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