THE Volkswagen (VW) Rally is just a few weeks away and excitement is mounting to see one of South Africa’s young rising stars in action.
Young Henk Lategan will take part in round four of the South African National Rally Championship, which takes place on Friday and Saturday July 19 and 20.
The start is at the Auto Pavilion in Uitenhage.
For two days, national rally teams will roar through the stages on both gravel and tar as they seek to claim victory and add points to their national championship.
Lategan will be in the fray. He will race in his VW Sasolracing Polo S2000. Also, he has shown his potential in an international rally.
Lategan, 18, and Barry White competed in Rally Adriatico recently, crossing the finish line to claim sixth place overall in the event – and were the fourth S2000 team home.
The pair were just two minutes behind the overall winners at the end of the gruelling competition in their first-ever overseas contest.
And, just to prove their success was not a flash in the pan, Lategan and White finished fifth in the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally.
The rally was won by Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, who rolled back the years when they won in their S2000 Basil Read Ford Fiesta.
Habig and Paisley, who are rallying veterans and have eight championships between them, saw off their younger rivals to record a comfortable 45-second win against another experienced crew – Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris).
Enzo Kuun and Douglas Judd (VW Sasolracing Polo) were third.
Meanwhile Lategan and White swapped their VW Sasolracing Polo S2000 for a Skoda Fabia S2000 at the Italian Rally Championship.
Covering 124km over two days, the event started about 30km inland of Ancona, a coastal town located on the Adriatic Sea, with the field travelling a further 30km from there towards Cingoli.
“The roads are different – I’ve never seen such narrow roads and the grip is incredible. It was like driving on tar and the level of competition was very tough. There are some very professional teams competing there,” Lategan said.
“Running under the FIA [International Automobile Federation] rules, it meant that things were very similar to here in South Africa. They compete on the same roads every year, so [we] know them really well. It was a new experience being able to race the route beforehand, I think it made things better for us on [race day].”
The team not only had to overcome a language barrier, but they also had to adapt to road conditions while pushing hard in unfamiliar territory.
When the first stage was completed, everyone wanted to know who these visitors were, as they made it on the leaderboard.
Meanwhile, things are hotting up for the VW Rally.
Route director Joe Fourie said: “We are still in the process of finalising stages for the event this year.
“There are 13 stages on the cards at this point, including a new stage at Fountain’s Mall in Jeffreys Bay, which will take place on Friday night, as well as a town stage, the final stage for Friday.”
“A new stage is also on the cards for Uitenhage, again a town stage starting from the Ocean Basket, which will bring the rally action right to fans,” he said.
The final stage, at Kings Beach, has also been redesigned.
The battle this year will be between the VW, Toyota and Ford entries in the top-flight national S2000 category, with competition expected to be the fiercest of any event this year.