What was it like growing up in a rally family?
FUN! When we visited our friends that lived on farms around the Belfast area I would “shot-gun” for my dad to take me, he “jaaged” to get there…and he still does 🙂 Even giving me a few pointers here and there on how to NOT drive… I must say my mom wasn’t too bad behind the wheel, although I used to get car sick when my mom drove me to netball championships in primary school.
What was it like racing with your father Kassie as your navigator at the 2008 Belfast Rally?
This was the best rally ever, I enjoyed it so much, really honoured to navigate for such an awesome driver :)… we had fun in the car as well, at one stage the car was miss-firing and my dad had to drive the Subie around the issue…it was at this rally when I finally found out what a “cut” means in the pace-notes…
You started your career as a navigator in 2006 with Johann van der Merwe in a Toyota Tazz, how did this come about, and what was it like starting out?
It was a dream come true. My dad got me to go to Greg Godrich navigating school in November 2005, qualifying top of my class. Greg introduced me to Johan who was looking for a co-pilot. Starting off with Johan and his team was a good learning curve. Johan had one of the fastest rally cars in the regional events, an 1800 RSI engine TAZZ with a sequential gearbox, two wheel drive. From early on I have learnt to be on the pace. Johan and myself won the 5th regional rally together which was the PMC Gauteng Rally. It was unbelievable to finally win!
What are the skills you have learnt as a navigator?
First is to be very honest; tell the driver when you are lost on notes. Second is to read fast, “scanning pages”. Third is to improve on your maths and time issues. Fourth is to ALWAYS be “calm and collected”. Fifth is how to change a wheel in 1 minute and 20 seconds. Sixth is how to spot a noise which is a potential car breaker issue – FYI always listen to your car. Seventh is to keep track of where you are going and where you have been, a good sense of direction is important. Eight is to combine the strengths and weaknesses inside the car so that you make a good team – communication is key. Nine is to speak-up and be very confident or drink “woestersous” the night before a rally. Ten is to fully trust the person next to you, your lives are in each other’s hands.
Having raced as a navigator with well-known and excellent drivers such as Evan Hutchinson and Leeroy Poulter, have you picked up driving tips for your own racing?
For sure, Leeroy has taught me how to drive in the rain on the circuit, and that it’s not easy to brake a car going flatout over jumps. Leeroy has also showed me that you can drive with one hand (the other hand holding the door closed, not to fall out) changing gears, while heel-and-toeing and getting the car turned, and pulling the handbrake simultaneously on a rally stage…MEN CAN MULTITASK! Evan is also a very good track racer, we used to win rally stages with our A7 Run-X on tar. Evan’s precision and racing lines were clean and he knew how to brake at the very last moment, also on persevering to the end. Evan and I used to love the long stages, our concentration was phenomenal.
What are your ambitions in this year’s championship?
Leeroy and myself want to win the National Rally Championship 2012, even after the horrible nightmare start in Natal, there is still hope for us. The awesome Toyota team is busy building us a new Auris to compete in this year’s championship after the old one had been completely burnt out. To win the championship you have to take your 7 best scores out of 8 events. Natal would be our throw-away event as we had a DNF and scored 0 points. So on-going we have to take podium finishes and win some more rallies!
When will be seeing you driving in a rally?
What have been the major differences for you between circuit racing and
Circuit racing is the same corner being negotiated over and over but in rallying, every corner is different, the surface changes, the speed changes, the set-up changes, basically it’s a new circuit every lap. Rallying is so much fun, it’s also team work inside the car and making sure that you listen, feel, understand and agree to every decision taken.
What have been the challenges, competing in Goldwagen Challenge and
I really enjoyed the difference in sport and having to race the car while they are bumping you off the circuit. SuperHatch has a fun club championship with 35 drivers on circuit and all are there to have fun, while Goldwagen Challenge is more challenging and serious with more bumping and egos to nurture. I love to race in the rain at my home track Zwartkops when my wipers are not working, overtaking cars while in the rough and off the circuit, that was so much fun. Kyalami I just love the mineshaft and outbraking rivals.
What are your plans track wise in 2012?
Pretoria North Toyota has kindly sponsored me a DRAG RACING car – rail for the season 2012. I will be doing regional and National challenges when I am not rallying. I have already competed in two events which was just awesome!
I love motorsport and its petrolheads. Zwartkops events are very much supported by the public and competitors. I hope that we can keep on building better events with plenty for the paying public to see. When I buy a newspaper the first thing I open is the motoring section to catch up on all the sport and upcoming events. Motorsport will always be big in my world, you live by you die by.
At your last event yours and Leeroy’s car burnt out on the rally, what happened and it must’ve been quite the scary experience?
It wasn’t a pleasant sight; it’s like watching someone die. This is my second car I have lost which I really loved. We tried everything to save our car but nothing seemed to put the sugarcane fire out. We were going very well up till that point where we just ran wide on an adverse corner, Natal being very slippery and we got stuck with our back wheels in the cane. The hot exhausts caught the dried sugarcane leaves and started the fire. We were beached at that stage and burned the clutch trying to get out. When we tried putting the fire out, half the car was up in flames. Leeroy even tried rolling the car down the hill to get away from the burning cane, but it was too far gone and the whole car was destroyed.