It was a yet another good weekend for Zimbabwean motor rally drivers Conrad Rautenbach and Jamie Whyte after their podium finish at the 20th Sasol Rally which ended at the Nelspruit Showgrounds late on Saturday.
The Sasol Rally was the second leg of both the African Rally Championship (ARC) and the South African Rally Championship where Rautenbach is currently setting the pace.
Rautenbach and his French navigator Nicholas Klinger, winners of last month’s Total Tour Natal Rally, overcame a nervy start to claw their way through the field to snatch third position overall in their G-Fuel Ford Fiesta.
Rautenbach and Klinger won 17 special stages in the Graskop, Sabie, White River and Nelspruit areas to finish 2,15 second behind eventual winners Leeroy Poulter and female navigator Evlene Coetzee in their Toyota Auris S200 and Johnny Gemmel and Drew Sturock.
“It’s been a difficult rally but we battled our way back into contention. Obviously being first on the road was a bit difficult for us as it meant that we had to be too cautious. However on the final day (on Saturday) we regained some ground,” Rautenbach said after the rally.
He said he was delighted to be in control of both championships after three rallies and said he hoped to carry on with the same form for the rest of the season.
“Third place was a good result for us as it means we are still in contention in both Africa (ARC) and the South Africa championship and the aim is definitely to go all the way,” said an elated Rautenbach.
Their third-place finish was however the highest by all the competitors registered in this year’s ARC as it ensured a second consecutive win in Africa.
Defending ARC champion Jamie Whyte and his co-driver Phil Archenoul finished third in the ARC and 14th overall in his rented Toyota Auris S2000 behind Rautenbach and South African Schalk Burger and co-driver Armand Du Toit.
Whyte, who was using a Toyota Auris rented from South African Hein Lategner for the first time, thanked Toyota Zimbabwe for helping rent the car.
He acknowledged that it was always going to be difficult to be aggressive with the car as he would pay for any damages.
However it was the in-form Rautenbach and his G-Fuel team who now seem to have a stranglehold on both titles after the third consecutive podium finish.
The former World Rally Championship competitor said he was happy with the performance of his G-Fuel-powered Ford Fiesta S2000 in the rough stages in the mountainous stages in Sabie, over 60km from Nelspruit.