The Basil Read/bizhub Ford Rally Team left KwaZulu Natal, scene of the opening round of the 2011 SA Rally Championship confident that their Ford Fiesta S2000 has the pace to be a serious championship contender this year.
Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich were one of six teams to share the stage win spoils on the 14 stage event as they fought back from an overnight 24th position to end 11th after electrical problems stopped the pair in their tracks on Friday afternoon.
“I knew from the first corner of the first stage we had a problem", said Wilken. “It’s annoying because in 70km of testing the Fiesta ran perfectly. We started conservatively and were in the top 6 but then an electrical problem stopped us dead in an open section. After sorting that out, we got to service 8 minutes late and the team took 22 minutes to sort out the belt”.
The pair got out of service with 20 seconds to spare before being time-barred and excluded from the event. “It was touch and go”, said Wilken. The 2010 Gauteng Rally winners set a goal for Saturday to get as close to a top 10 position as possible and drove hard over the nine remaining stages and rocketed up the order with times consistently inside the top 4 in the final stages of the challenging event.
“Running so far back, we had to dodge a lot of rocks pulled into the road by the guys ahead. It wasn’t an ideal road position”, related Wilken. “I’m disappointed, but the points we got could well count towards the end of the year – it’s going to be a long season. We need to investigate why the problems, and prevent it from happening again”.
Greg Godrich was full of praise for the Basil Read/bizhub technicians. “We were damn lucky not to be excluded. The team did a phenomenal job. We didn’t want to kill the car on Saturday and drove well within our limits and set good times. The pace is very hot this year. What was historically a really good time for a particular stage is simply no longer good enough anymore”.
Team Director Flip Wilken was philosophical after the Tour Natal Rally: “We wanted to do better but it’s one of those events where we were plagued by technical issues. I think we did pretty well to recover from 24th to 11th in 118km of stages. The pace of our car and the team gives me confidence going into the next event”.
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