Press release by: Roadworx Communications
The ATS Motorsport Young Guns conducted a successful pre-season test over the weekend of February 10/11 and are ready for the opening round of the South African National Rally Championship next month.
Runners-up last year, Richard Leeke Jnr and Henry Köhne plan on going one better this season and will be putting everything they learned during a busy 2017 to use to stay in front. Proceedings get underway with the Trade Brands Tour Natal Rally in Kwazulu-Natal on March 9 and 10 – but this time the action is on the North Coast with the start taking place in Ballito. This is the first time in almost a decade that rallying has visited the region so it’ll be a new experience for almost everyone…
From Ballito, they probably head inland and into the into the cane fields, but there are bound to be some surprises (including a night stage) thrown in and the organisers are currently tight-lipped about exactly what competitors can expect.
“We were in contention from the first round in 2017 and finished second on the opener despite some braking niggles,” recalls Leeke, still just 21, “Round two didn’t go to plan though – we rolled our Ford Fiesta R2 on the York Rally but soldiered on to finish sixth. On round three, we had some electrical issues but were second in our class once again.
“This year we’re looking for clean runs from the outset and the Fiesta has been comprehensively rebuilt to maximise reliability,” Leeke elaborated. “We’ve had a complete rethink on the suspension and I certainly found the changes to my liking – the car feels faster and the stopwatch bears this out. I’m looking forward to going toe to toe once again with my arch-rival from last year, Guy Botterill.
“It has also been a while since Henry and I shared a car, so it was good to hear that familiar voice in the headphones once again!”
Adds Köhne: “Being 100 percent sharp and alert only comes with practice and repetition of the drills and getting in sync well before the season kicks off is important. It would be arrogant to think that we could use the opening round to acclimatize, so the test served multiple purposes. There are pretty much all new stages to us and while our test was on the South Coast, we’re confident that the progress we’ve made will stand us in good stead up north!
“It was also a reminder that physical fitness and body maintenance is important and once again we’ll be relying on P1 Nutrition to keep us hydrated and mentally sharp for two days in a high-humidity environment,” concluded Köhne.
Exact details at the time of writing were unconfirmed, but the event is expected to comprise 11 stages and 150 stage kilometres. Keep up to date with the countdown and the event itself on http://www.sarallying.co.za/