Mud and glory: The 2023 TRAC N4 Rally Championship concludes
Following an action-packed event at the Bronx Rally in Bronkhorstpruit in October, the final showdown of the 2023 SA National Rally Championship kicked off in Dullstroom. This marked the commencement of two final dust-filled races, bringing a thrilling series full of twists and turns to a close.
The last round included two final stages spread out over two days as rally teams battled for the top step. At the start of the TRAC N4 Rally on Friday, intense competition unfolded between the Rally Technic Mazda 2 of Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich and the Just Tools VW Polo with Benjamin Habig and Barry White at the helm.
After the Polo lost power and could not be revived until after all racers had passed, the battle ended abruptly. This happened shortly after the beginning of the first special stage, which forced the team to retire for the day, leaving the Mazda 2 duo to push ahead.
In a quick turn of events, the Salom Toyota Auris of Theuns Joubert and Schalk van Heerden dominated the opening stage, winning by a substantial 10-second margin over the Mazda pair, with newly-crowned SA Champions JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit in the NTT Toyota Delmas Hyundai R4 seemingly adopting a more cautious approach than their usual style.
“I was taking it easier,” said Potgieter, “but we were also battling with a misfire that kept us off the pace.”
In the second stage, the duo of Mandla Mdakane and Kes Naidoo demonstrated remarkable ability in their Toyota Gazoo Racing Starlet. They blazed through the course, shaving off 10 seconds from Joubert/Van Heerden’s time and outpacing the Mazda 2 by 14 seconds.
However, they were penalised by four minutes after making an error during the clock-in procedure at the start of the stage, a move that saw the pair drop to the back of the field. This was also met with an engine problem at the end of the day.
Stages 3, 4, and 5 saw the teams battle it all out through challenging terrain, and at the end of the day, Coertse/Godrich secured the top step of the podium from Joubert/Van Heerden and Potgieter/Du Toit, with Mdakane/Naidoo fourth on the road but excluded due to an engine problem, while Gustav Potgieter finishes fourth ahead of Lynton Swatton and Tommy Coetzee in their RBS Plumbing Toyota RunX.
On a bright and clear Saturday, the teams demonstrated their tenacity across all stages. When the dust settled, Coertse and Godrich emerged victorious, clinching the stage win and finishing as the overall winners for the day. This triumph also placed them second in the national standings. Gustav Potgieter, who finished third for the day, topped the NRC 2 category and secured the top spot in the national standings.
As for Mdakane and his co-driver, they finished third in NRC1 for the year and took their first rally stage win.