Rautenbach seeks hat-trick in SA

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In-form Zimbabwean motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach will be eyeing a hat-trick of wins at next weekend’s 2011 Sasol Rally to be held around Mpumalanga in Nelspruit, South Africa.

The Sasol Rally is this year’s second leg of both the African Rally Championship (ARC) and the South African Rally championship series.

Rautenbach and his French co-driver Nicolas Klinger who are competing under the G-Fuel team have enjoyed a dream start this season in which they are setting the pace in both competitions.

Rautenbach and Klinger have so far powered their G-Fuel G8 ethanol-powered Ford Fiesta S2000 to victory in the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally, the first race of the ARC and the Total Tour Natal Rally, the first leg of the South African Rally championship.

These two important victories came inside two weeks.

Rautenbach will be aiming to increase the momentum at the Sasol Rally, a race that he is familiar with having participated in it last season.
Besides Rautenbach, Zimbabwe will be represented by two other drivers at the Sasol Rally in two-time African Rally Champion Jamie Whyte and Chase Attwell.

Whyte and his co-driver, Phil Archenoul usually use a Subaru Impreza, will this time be driving a Toyota Auris S2000 hired from South African Hein Lategan.

Attwell, who will have Mike Skimmer as his co-driver will also be using Toyota Auris S2000 bought from South African Visser du Plessis.

However, it is Rautenbach who will feel he has some unfinished business at the Sasol Rally after coming so close to winning it last season.

In April last year, Rautenbach and his then co-driver Peter Marsh were the overall leaders by the halfway stage of the race before retiring on the final day after hitting a rock which caused terminal damage to their Ford Fiesta S2000.

Analysts in South Africa are tipping him for greater things this season. A statement on the South Africa Motorsport website motorsport.co.za read:

“Judging by the results of the Total Tour Natal Rally on March 25 and 26, the South African rally championship could see a changing of the guard in 2011.

“Although it might be a little early to write off the more experienced and older competitors after just one round of the eight-event series, youth prevailed in what was a sizzling season-opener on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Zimbabwean privateer Conrad Rautenbach (G-Fuel Ford Fiesta) heads the overall championship as well as the premier Super 2000 class with 25 points after upstaging the factory teams in the Total Tour Natal Rally to score his second victory in South Africa since joining the championship last year,” read the statement.

A win for Rautenbach at the Sasol Rally, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, would certainly prove his championship credentials.

The event will start in Sabie on Friday morning and will finish in Nelspruit on Saturday afternoon.

The 17 stages will consist of three tar- town stages, a super special and 13 gravel stages and will cover a total stage distance of approximately 200 kilometres of the total 700.