Tjaart Conradie and Kesevan Naidoo got their 2011 Super 1600 title chase off to a solid start on the opening round of the South African Rally Championship, ending 2nd in the category in spite of winning 10 of the 14 stages.
The Silverton Engineering Toyota Auris pair endured a rollercoaster ride over the two-day, 14-stage 155km route, from the highs of leading to the depths of plummeting down the leaderboard to 4th and fighting every inch of the way to get back onto the podium.
The rally started well; running in cool, rainy weather, Conradie and Naidoo won the opening two stages before ploughing off the road in stage three. “The car wouldn’t select reverse gear and when it did, it wouldn’t start. We lost 40 seconds there”, related Conradie, who dropped to 4th place.
Two more stage wins saw the Silverton Engineering car leap back into second place. The first of Saturday’s nine stages saw Conradie close to 0.4 seconds of leaders Ashley Haigh Smith/Hilton Auffray (Ford Fiesta) but then it went horribly wrong when the Auris speared up the wrong road. 1 ½ minutes were lost and they dropped back to 4th spot.
Stage 8 was another eventful one for Conradie and Naidoo. Pushing hard, they had another overshoot at a spectator point. “I scared an old lady who couldn’t get out of her chair quickly enough”, Conradie smiled. A string of five consecutive stage times hauled the Silverton Engineering Auris up to 2nd place at the finish, 35 seconds down on Haigh Smith.
“We used this rally to get used to each other and rebuild my confidence”, said Conradie. “I was impressed with Kes’ notes. He’s good when he’s scared”, he laughed. “We made great progress and I’ve got my confidence back after rolling on the Osram rally last year”.
Naidoo was equally enthusiastic: “It was a great drive – an awesome ride. The whole team is great. We were unfortunate not to win but we achieved our goal for the weekend. The championship is a realistic goal for the year. The Super 1600 Championship is a new ball game with so many competitors”.
The Silverton Engineering Toyota Auris team is supported by Galvadip, Hencom Autobody and Pan African Commuter Solutions.
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