And this year we were part of those 350 teams, as one of the 25 rotations was made up entirely of motoring journalists. Some arrived with helmets in hand, determined to come out on top. Others were more subtle, claiming to be there for the “camaraderie”, although we suspect this was just a cover.
As in previous years, Sarel van der Merwe had put together a tough and exciting programme comprising of 16 stages, specially formulated to test a driver’s vehicle control and off-road driving skills, as well as the navigator’s ability to stay calm.
Most of the stages involved speed driving on sand, similar to rally special stages, but technical climbs on soft sand were probably the most difficult. A regularity rally was also included, and proved the downfall of most of the media teams, Leisure Wheels fortunately not amongst them.
At the end of a frenetic day of enjoyable driving it was proven that experience far outweighs youthful exuberance when it comes to motorsport, and ex-rally driver Gerrie Gericke and his navigator Robin Ross-Thompson came out on top. Following closely, and losing in the final stage of the day, were Geoff Dalglish and Neil Harrison, while Ashleigh Oldfield and Leisure Wheels’ Stephen Smith followed up in a creditable third place.
The finals of the event will take place from 21 to 29 August in Bilene, Mozambique. The following participants will compete for the grand prize of R50 000 in cash.
SPIRIT OF AFRICA 2009 OVERALL SCORES – ELIMINATIONS
Position Names Points Group
1 Hermas Coetzee & Riaan Valentin 1400 6
2 Tian Theunissen & Chris Pienaar 1400 19
3 Piet Kotze & Theo Spengler 1390 6
4 Christiaan Otto & Pikke Otto 1290 14
5 Renier Boshoff & Renza Boshoff 1290 18
6 Lourens Du Plessis & Dirk Lombard 1270 3
7 Zak Otto & Theuns de Bruyn 1205 14
8 Lopie Jonck & Toppie Myburgh 1190 18
9 A J Venter & Bongani Tembe 1185 21
10 Wiela Botha & Willie Oosthuizen 1185 23
11 Naas Ehlers & Annelie Ehlers 1180 18
12 Koedoe van der Westhuizen & Cliff Oosthuizen 1160 3
13 Albert Otto Snr. & Callie Otto 1160 14
14 Greg Pearson & Chris van der Merwe 1160 21
15 Juan Grant & Rina Botha 1150 7
16 Konrad Boettiger & Eduard Boettiger 1145 23