Let me try and explain why this event was by far my most favourite one.
Witzenberg Motor Club Gymkhana series competitors was invited to come and entertain the visitors at the 2011 Ysterplaat Wings and Wheels Air show. No results, no official racing etc. just pure fun, this meant we would have to take members of the press, media and radio personalities around the gymkhana course. We heard rumours of the event early in the year and started saving the old tyres, the best idea to date. A few off us decided to take leave for the Friday as the event was over two days. Friday morning early arriving at Ysterplaat was more or less the same as any other Gymkhana race, besides the fact that we were treated as VIP members as we were issued with security passes etc. We quickly found a space and started prepping the vehicles, for the Friday we had the Golf, Fox and Datsun and quickly sorted them out, it was such a relaxed atmosphere that I even had time to play around with springs and a few other bits, hell I even decided to test “Datto’s” steering wheel on the Datsun, the steering wheel just fitted out with the buttons “Datto’ will need, more of this later. After we had walked and learned the track, I was off to the rally teams, as this was my opportunity to get back what I have been putting into their sport over the last 3 years doing radio communication for them. Today I was going to sit in the suicide seat of these vehicles, come hi or low.
During drivers briefing the rules was explained, safety first and take as much media around the track as possible. What, are your serious, take as much media around the track as possible, Yes was the answer, ok, let me get this correct, does this mean we have unlimited runs, Yes was the answer again. Well that thought took the rest of drivers briefing to completely sunk in. Honestly I can’t remember what was said after that. We waited a while until the official go ahead was given from the organizers and we started lining up. The route was on a cement slap and only one corner was on tar, having had the opportunity in the past to compete on a cement surface, I knew it could be tricky, thus I opted to go out with one of our regular navigators first to get a feel for it. At this point we basically finished our run and got in line again. This went on and on for the rest of the day, Mike unfortunately had to leave to attend a work function which left the Fox standing around for Selina to abuse for the rest of the day, and me. He just asked us to keep the car in one piece and look after the tyres.
We continued to torture the vehicle around the route, Jan had his first taste of the Datsun, Selina went around in it, while I laughed myself silly while navigating for them, Selina had the poor car jerking around the track, Jan was to slow turning the steering wheel, etc. All this while we enjoyed the aircraft in the air, adding a nice distraction from the norm. The Fox went so many times around the track that the front rubber was busy disappearing, well Mike said we should look after the tyres, so I swapped the fronts with the rears, this would show him that we care, at least now we can get the new rubber in the front showing the same wear as the rears, and off we went. Jan also took the Fox around and Selina kept the car busy, to the end of the day I navigated a round for Selina and I started noticing the rear braking away slightly, the thought popped into my mind that today will be the day I’ll enjoy a FWD car. A few seconds later Selina and I swopped seats and I was behind the wheel of this FWD car, seeing that the first few corners was relative slow speed, I could only feel the back moving slightly, once we entered the fast corners the fun started, as you turned the steering wheel to enter a corner, you immediately had to counter steer to keep the nose in the correct direction, pure fun. This is what happens if you provide a bunch of super competitive people to give something back, the end result, everyone has fun.
I completely forgot about the rally teams. damn I missed my opportunity. Not yet, we heard they will be going out again, all in the bakkie and into the convey taking as thru the planes to the special stage. Here we were told to stand in line as the press gets first honours, man was I annoyed, bloody press, they had there opportunity throughout the day. Well we sat around watching the action as one after the other the press was going around, just as i thought our change is coming, the Army Uncle shut us down as the rally cars was making too much dust. Luckily this was only temporary. That was it, the bloody press had therefun, while I was seriously not happy, but being a grown up, well sometimes, I was plotting my revenge. If the dust settles and the army uncle allow the cars to continue I’ll get my suicide seat.
I thought to myself, I’m a pretty outspoken person, I do not care which celebrity press person is in line, he will have to add his eggs in a basket to weight them against my 150+ hours of doing radio communication for these people. Then the call came, you can open the stage, and all the cars was occupied, Ashley Haigh-Smith retuning from the stage, he properly saw that I was about to open my own press conference, stopped at the start and showed me to come. I had to pinch myself, here I was going to go a on a special stage with one of the countries hot young talent. All strapped up and ready to start, sitting there waiting for the count down, I had a sense of fear, but this is what these rally drivers do best, drive on gravel. Off we went in the React A6 Toyota Corolla, thru the gears approaching a decently sharp 90, I thought to myself, Ashley it is time to brake, a few meters further, ok it’s too late, maybe it’s time to call a tow truck, if we were on tarmac we would have been fine in my opinion, but this being gravel no way are we going to make it, he got on the brakes hard, a few shifts down, on the brakes again, getting the car ready for his desired line, while on the brakes he applied throttle and he got us thru, these gravel tires is something else. The rest of the stage I had to remind myself to look up as I was concentrating on his foot work. What an experience.
The day ended with the Datsun destroying 2 semi’s and another two half way dead. The Fox on the other hand had chewed its way thru 4 slicks, at least the damage was the same on all 4 as I made pretty sure about that, I was told to look after them. On our way back, I met Mike half way home, he quickly went home after his function to collect 4 fresh slicks for the next day after I told him the news. At this stage we didn’t really bother about the amount off tyres we were using, the amount off fun and the feeling you get when you give something back outweighs the money for rubber, we would safe rubber next year.
Saturday morning arrived, again we were at the venue quite early, way too early for competitors who’s cars are all in order and know the route. We decided to walk thru all the stands and hangers while Ruan had to learn the track. Once we got back the pits was packed, a big part of the Gymkhana troops was visible between rally car, drifters, hotrods etc. We knew that the amount off runs was going to be limited, not like yesterday’s 25+. In the back off my mind I was quite happy as now there was other people to entertain and I could focus on the Rally special stage. Again I went to the teams, and this time round I told them to notify me when they will be going as I need to experience these road going gravel machines again. We had a few runs on the Gymkhana track, I even navigated for one of the cars from the Franschoek Motor Museum, I think it was some sort of a MG, and as you would have expected from a British car, it died.
The call come, I rallied the troops from Race-Tech and we left in convoy for the Rally Stage. Manie Amlay agreed to me on the special stage, he just had to take 1 or 2 of the media chaps around, while we were waiting I arranged with him that when it is my change, that he will first take Selina around, this left her with no time to think about the terror on the way, she just had to strap herself in the seat. Once all strapped in, off they went, on their return we were greeted with smiles, what a relief she made it and loved it. Next in line it was my turn, but I told Mike he must be standing ready once we return. We sat off on the slightly changed route, now a little longer, once we reached the first 90 Left, it was very apparent that we were in a N3 machine, this Toyota RunX needed more time to brake, but again, the tyres had a shocking amount of grip on the gravel. On arrival Mike was ready for his run, on return I could tell he was impressed. I also managed to secure a run for Corne with Manie, on her return she was blushing from ear to ear.
We returned to the gymkhana action, and to our amazement, the queue was shorter and we managed a few final runs on the route. Manie even asked me to navigate for him in the rally car, we completed 2 runs and it was very apparent that these machines is built for gravel and not tight corners on tarmac.
We ended the day on a high. I would just like to thank everyone involved in making this
event a reality, it is indeed very nice to give something back to the community and then a special thanks to Ashley and Manie for providing us with the opportunity to experience a rally car on a special stage.
Picture Gallery: 2011 Wings and Wheels