Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle were the first winners of the new-look South African National Rally Championships when they took their Toyota Gazoo Racing Etios to a convincing three-minute win in the sugar-cane fields in the Tour Natal Rally — the opening round of the season.Second were Richard Leeke III and Henry Kohne in the ATS Ford Fiesta, and their 3 minute, 22,8 second deficit may well have been less had they not suffered brake failure on the opening special stage of Saturday morning. They were followed home by Jono van Wyk and Scott Howden, also in a Ford Fiesta.The new format for national rallying, run for the first time, on the Tour Natal sees 1,6-litre cars with front-wheel drive doing battle at roughly one-third of the cost of the all-wheel-drive highly modified S2 cars from last year.A total of seven of these new cars, called R2 — started the event on Friday afternoon, but A.C. Potgieter/Mari van der Walt (Volkswagen Polo) were lucky to escape uninjured when they rolled their car on the opening stage on Saturday morning.George Smallberge and Chris Brand, in their newly built Volkswagen Polo, were forced to retire on Saturday afternoon after having had electrical issues since the start of the event.“Enough is enough,” said a disappointed Brand. “The car is now running on two cylinders and we do not want to damage the engine.”The fourth R2 car home was the Tjaart Conradie/Carolyn Swan Toyota Etios, nine minutes off the pace of the leader. The final R2 finishers were Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich (Toyota Etios), who were robbed of a better placing when they went off the road in stage six and lost 23 minutes.For the 2017 season, there are additional classes being run simultaneously in their own event and catering for older cars. The winners in the NR4 class were Lee Rose/Elvene Coetzee (Ford Escort RS), followed by Rolof Coertse/Nico Swartz also in a Ford Escort and Ashley and Lee Mackenzie in their Escort.Trevor Graham/Brian Clifton (BMW 135) won the NR1 category with Roger de Charmoy/Clive Wilson (Volkswagen Golf) chasing them hard.In the S1 KZN Regional Rally section Bertus Labuschagne/Peter Chadwick (Volkswagen Playa) had a good battle throughout the event with Tony Ball/Stuart Clifton in their Lancia Fulvia, with Lllewelyn Blackler/Lance Morgan-Edwards (Volkswagen Golf 1) rounding out the top three.