At full throttle

2012-03-30 09:35

South Africa is one of the very few countries with its own rally championship based on the annual international motorsport event – the World Rally Championship (WRC).

And while the WRC has been in existence since 1973, South Africans have beenenjoying this sport since 1960.

Of course, you have to be an adventurer or complete petrol nut to stand in one spot waiting for cars to barrel down at high speeds and leave you covered in dust.

Yes, being hit by tiny rocks hurts, but being so close to a game of life and death is exhilarating.

I’ll definitely be going to the next one. Of course, my bag will be better packed and I’ll be more prepared now that I know what to expect.

So here are the facts for those who’d like to attend a rally.

What is it?
The championship is a series of rallies held to determine the best driver and co-driver in the country.

It’s the highest level of competition in the sport, run on regional and national levels within various terrain and weather conditions.

The teams are made up of a driver and co-driver (navigator) who reads pace notes through the stages to alert the driver of road conditions ahead.

These tell the driver exactly when to turn or how to drive, even when visibility is poor.

The SA Rally takes place over eight months with each rally held at a different location around the country.

Each rally has between 15 and 20 stages held over two days on closed roads. Drivers tackle these stages in an effort to complete them in the shortest time.

Competitors drive to and from each stage on everyday roads, observing normal traffic regulations.

The Total Rally was the first event last weekend and will be followed by the Sasol Rally in Nelspruit at the end of next month.

What to pack
The scorching heat, flying rocks and eating dust are just some of the hazards you need to consider as a spectator. Depending on the weather and time of year, things to pack will vary.

Rallies often mean waiting for long periods of time. Make sure you pack sunscreen, wet wipes, an umbrella, sun hat, camper chair, a braai, insect repellent and some padkos.

Most important is a cooler box with an abundance of water and beers to keep you hydrated and buoyant.

Flip-flops, sandals and high heels are big no-nos, unless you’re the type who likes the feel of pebbles and mud between your toes. Wear comfortable walking shoes with socks.

Spectator points are usually packed and require a trek from parking spots. Ablution facilities are non-existent at spectator points.

While this isn’t a problem for some men, women need to be prepared to hold and pray for a rest stop along the way to the next stage.

What you should know
The stages are often quite far apart, so when planning your trip, make sure you thoroughly research the area. Study the directions to spectator points at each stage.

Also try to keep track of how many cars are left so that you don’t wait around until the last moment.

It’s best to head out to the next stage before all the drivers complete the stages so you can get the best parking or viewpoint. Trekking to each stage in a rush with everyone is part of the fun.

Rally championship calendar

April 20-21: Sasol Rally – Nelspruit

June 8-9: Toyota Gauteng Rally

July 13-14: Volkswagen Rally – Port Elizabeth

August 10-11: Gauteng Rally

August 31 to September 1:
Cape Rally

October 5-6: Polokwane Rally

November 2-3: Garden Route National Rally – George/Knysna

»? For more information, visit

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