A return to normality for Sandra Labuscagne

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After her heroics on the Sealine Cross country Rally in Qatar it will be back to the more mundane business for Sandra Labuscagne at the Vredefort Super Sprint, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship, on May 7.

Labuscagne and Spanish driver Christina Gutierrez-Herrero, in a Nissan Patrol, finished 24th overall in round three of the FIA Cross Country World Cup and won the award for highest female finishers. For Labuscagne the cherry on top of the cake came when she was named the best navigator in a programme launched last year by the FIA Women in Motorsport Federation, and the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF).

But the focus will shift from Qatar to the Free State when Labuscagne returns to navigating for dad Coetzee in the Special Vehicle category in the Donaldson series. The pair will again be out in the ChemSystems Porter in a new event on the cross country racing calendar.

Prior to the Qatar event Labuscagne was one of nine drivers and nine navigators from 85 countries selected to attend a training camp overseen by former Dakar Rally winner Jutta Kleinschmidt and top female navigator Fabrizia Pons. The numbers were whittled down to three all-female teams to compete on the Sealine Cross Country Rally, with Labuscagne paired with Gutierrez-Herrero.

With a route consisting of a mixture of dunes, sand and rocky plains the Sealine Cross Country Rally is widely regarded as the toughest on the Cross Country World Cup calendar. High desert temperatures also provide a test for crews.

“For me the dunes provided the biggest challenge, particularly where navigation was concerned,” said Labuscagne. “The high desert temperatures were also a problem and we had our ups and downs with flat tyres, mechanical and electrical problems and at one stage got stuck in the dunes.

“But we persevered and finishing 24th overall was not bad for our first shot at an international cross country event.”

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Labuscagne added that she and Gutierrez-Herrero had hit it off from the start and worked well as a team. There was also no shortage of South African support in Qatar.

“Christine and I got on well and there was a constant flow of messages of support and encouragement from cross country enthusiasts in South Africa,” Labuscagne said. “I also had huge support from my family and it was an unforgettable experience.”

After outstanding results from South African teams on this year’s Dakar Rally, Labuscagne’s Qatar success provided another feather in South African cross country racing’s cap.

“The cross country community is hugely proud of Sandra,” said SANORA chief executive officer Siegfried Rousseau. “It was a tremendous performance from her and Christine, and another indication of just how strong our sport is in this country.

“Hopefully there will be more opportunities for Sandra and other local competitors to compete on the international stage.”

Vredefort may be a far cry from Qatar, but Labuscagne is looking forward to again competing with her dad and hoping that one day she will be able to realise a dream. “The Dakar Rally,” she said.

“To compete on the Dakar, that is my dream.”

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