Top Zimbabwean motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach has shifted his attention to this weekend’s 2011 KCB Safari Rally after he recorded his first non-finish of the season during the Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally in South Africa over the weekend.
The Gauteng Rally was the fourth round of the South African Rally Championship.
Rautenbach, who was co-driven by his French-born navigator Nicolas Klinger did not last the distance in Gauteng after his Green Fuel Ford Fiesta S2000 snapped an alternator belt with three stages to go.
However, despite the setback Rautenbach and Klinger still lead the title race by a margin of two points at the season’s halfway mark.
“It was incredibly slippery and difficult to judge braking distance on those roads, which were more grass than gravel. I lost a lot of motivation when I saw the stages that are more suited to off-road racing than rallying”, he said.
Rautenbach and Klinger ended day one in an unaccustomed 10th position overall amid numerous allegations of short-cutting of the route by his rivals and Rautenbach had a very firm view:
“Many of the stages were just tracks through a grassy field, so I had to find the correct road as well. There was ample opportunity to take big cuts but that’s not how I rally and it cost us a lot of time. If I wanted to drive through the field, I would have become a farmer.”
Controversy dogged the Green Fuel Team from the first stage, which was not included in the route DVD.
“We were supposed to get notes of the stage before the start but that didn’t happen so when I got there, I asked the marshal if we could walk the stage which he agreed to. This was done in the interests of both the public’s safety as well as ours.
“It turns out he didn’t have the authority and a competitor put in a protest which nearly saw us excluded. The stewards eventually overturned the protest,” said Rautenbach.
He fought back on day two by setting a string of quick times, consistently in the top five that saw him move into eighth place before retirement halted their charge.
Kenya is crucial to the team’s title hopes as they will miss the Uganda round as it clashes with the fifth round of the SA Rally Championship.