31 October 2011 ~ 0 Comments

2011 MTN Polokwane Rally podium finish for BP Volkswagen Polo team

After an unfortunate season, the BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 South African rally team clinched a podium spot on the last event of the season, the MTN Polokwane Rally (21-23 October). Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries took third place at the event, after two days of tough competition. Reigning champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson recorded a third place finish overall for the year, meaning their Polo rally car will wear the number three in 2012. ‘We’ve reached a successful end to a very difficult year,’ said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Racing South Africa. ‘We’ve had to stretch the performance of our cars against the newest technology available from Europe, but the team rose to the challenge.’

‘The Junior and Privateer Volkswagen competitors did us proud this season, with Christoff and Celeste Snyders winning the Junior Championship, the Two-Wheel Drive Championship and the S1600 Championship (finishing in 13th place on the Polokwane stages), while Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray won the S1400 championship,’ says Rowe. ‘We’re looking forward to a very exciting season in 2012 with a new car in the mix.’ Verlaque and Auffray also took the S1400 class on the Polokwane event. Other Polo finishers included Nicholas Ryan and Armand du Toit in seventh.

The Polos of Giniel de Villiers and Ralph Pitchford, Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson, and Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin did not finish. Overall victors of the Limpopo event were Leeroy Pouter and Elvene Coetzee in their Castrol and Innovation Group-backed Toyota Auris S2000. Finishing second, Team Sasol’s Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton won the 2011 South African Driver’s and Co-Driver’s Rally Championships in their Ford Fiesta S2000 – the first privateers in 45 years to do so. Volkswagen Racing South Africa are thought to be preparing a Polo 6R-based machine for the 2012 championship.

[Images: ledbitter@quickpic]

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18 June 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Mixed results for BP Volkswagen team on grueling Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally

A grueling Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally over 10-11 June produced solid if not spectacular results for the BP Volkswagen rally team. Championship defenders Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson finished third on the fourth round of the 2011 South African National Rally Championship, posting a second fastest time in the last stage of the event. Another safe performance was driven by Hergen Fekken/Pierre Aries, who came in fourth, after starting five places further down the field. Meanwhile, Jan Habig and Robert Paisley’s rally only lasted three stages. A control arm bolt in their rear suspension failed and the right wheel of their Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 was dragged behind the car. Continuing with just three wheels for as long as they could, they had to call it a day after posting just two stage times.

The news was better for the team of Giniel de Villiers/Ralph Pitchford. Delivering an outstanding performance on the Gauteng event, they sprinted from the start, and finished second overall at the end of day one. Gearbox problems brought their dynamite pace to a halt, though, and the the BP Volkswagen team of technicians replaced the ‘box after stage 13, during the routine service. A small lateness penalty didn’t stop the duo from completing the final stage of the event, but then an engine mounting broke, and engine damage from the slipping timing belt forced them out of the event. Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin campaigned their S1600 Polo Vivo through ten stages, before forced to bow out with a sheared control arm bolt. S1400 runners Megan Verlaque/Lirene du Plessis claimed victory in the smaller-cc class.

Other top ten Volkswagen Polo finishers included the pairs of Nicholas Ryan/Armand du Toit in seventh, and Japie van Niekerk/Simon Vacy-Lyle in ninth, both teams in Polo Vivo S2000s. Christoff Snyders/Celeste Snyders took 20th place in their Polo Vivo S1600, while S1400 Polo pilots Henk Lategan/Pierre Jordaan finished one place below. The BP Volkswagen Polo rally team will now prepare for their traditional home event, the Volkswagen Rally, to be held on Friday and Saturday, the 15-16 July in Port Elizabeth.

[Images: ledbitter@quickpic]

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19 April 2011 ~ 0 Comments

2011 Sasol Rally takes its toll on the BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 team

The second outing of 2011 for the South African BP Volkswagen rally team went even less to plan than the first, but, despite the punishing stages, the lime green liveried fleet of Polo Vivo S2000s lived to fight another day. The 20th Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga from 15-16 April really did punish the Volkswagen team, and it was one of the rare occasions when there were no Polos on the podium. Instead, the spoils went to Toyota teams Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee in first and Johnny Gemmell/Drew Sturrock in second, while Ford drivers Conrad Rautenbach/Nicolas Klinger came in third.

Polo pilots Jan Habig/Robert Paisley were favourites from the start, setting the pace with three consecutive stage wins, although a damaged brake pipe soon curtailed them. Mechanical work completed, they went on to finish just 0.4 seconds off the rally leaders at the end of day one. The second day brought more drama, with Habig’s biggest crash for 14 years. One of his Polo Vivo S2000’s rims was damaged on a yump on stage 12, and on landing, the car headed straight for the bushes, rolling end over end for over 240 metres. Injuries were thankfully light; Habig suffered bruising, while Paisley got away with a broken collarbone.

With Habig/Paisley out, the pressure was on for Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries, who claimed seventh position overall at the rally’s end, but even that was hard won. The first day saw the duo in the top six drivers – and that was bettered on day two when the team were in the top four – but one stage after the Habig/Paisley crash, their Polo Vivo S2000 suffered a broken propshaft, leaving them more than four minutes behind the rally leaders. Climbing up the leaderboard from ninth, Fekken/Arries’ seventh position had the dubious honour of being the highest-placed BP Volkswagen rally car.

[Images: ledbitter@quickpic]

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