The Volkswagen Rally, round four of the South African National Rally Championship, will break new ground in the Uitenhage, Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth areas on July 19 and 20.
The organisers, the Algoa Rally Association, have announced a number of changes including six new special stages, but emphasise that the rally, one of the most popular and toughest on the eight-event calendar, has lost nothing of its unique character.
“It will still be a blend of demanding gravel special stages and short tar stages with the Longmore Forest inland from Jeffreys Bay a major factor,” said clerk of the course Joe Fourie.
There will be a total of 14 stages, seven on each day, with nine on gravel (five in the Longmore Forest), four on tar and one a combination of gravel and tar. Total special stage distance is some 190 kilometres out of a total rally route distance of around 450 kilometres.
“We have two new tar stages at the end of day one in Jeffreys Bay, where we will overnight, as well as a new tar stage in Uitenhage on day two,” said Fourie. “In addition, we will have the traditional finish on tar at King’s Beach in Port Elizabeth, but this time it will be a completely different layout with a cross-over bridge on the northern side of the parking area.
“There’s a new 25-kilometre gravel stage called Blouberg in the Longmore Forest on the Friday and this will be repeated on Saturday. In addition, the forest will host the traditional 34-kilometre Kingsview stage (which was washed out last year in unseasonal rains), the 25-kilometre PPC stage and a new 11-kilometre stage called Hangpad.
“The other gravel stages will be the 10,5-kilometre Melon stage in the Gamtoos Valley on Friday, which will be repeated in the reverse direction on Saturday, the 19-kilometre Culturama stage, which will also be reversed on Saturday and called Sinkdam.”
Commenting on the effect that rainy weather might have on the event, Fourie reiterated that it was unusual to experience rain in the region at this time of the year. “Last year’s flash flood was a bit of a freak occurrence and fortunately only affected one stage. Any rain we might have before the rally will be helpful, in fact, in preparing the roads. We don’t anticipate any problems unless we have a repeat of last year.”
The rally, the 31st to be sponsored by Volkswagen, will have a ceremonial start at 12:00 on Friday (July 19) from the VW AutoPavilion outside the VW factory in Uitenhage. The first special stage, on tar and gravel, will be at the 4,3-kilometre VW test track and the day will end in Jeffrey’s Bay with the two tar stages.
The first will be over a short course of about two kilometres in the parking lot of the Fountains Mall alongside the N2 highway, while the day’s finale will be over a similar distance in the streets of Jeffreys Bay. There will be a 45-minute overnight service stop between the two J-Bay tar stages and the cars will be impounded in the town overnight.
Saturday’s action starts at 08:00 from the Fountains Mall and ends alongside the Indian Ocean at PE’s King’s Beach from around 14:15. There will be a podium ceremony and prize-giving at the finish at 15:45.