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Shell Helix Classic Rally

Broadcast dates : 5th September  2004
9th September 2004


The annual Shell Helix Classic Rally takes place in Mpumalanga on the 18th and 19th September, and is expected to attract over 100 entries from the Gauteng area.

Organised by the Pretoria Motor Club, the event is open to street-legal cars built before 1982. But the organizers say they are willing to bend the rules on the date cut-off, if an enthusiast wants to enter an interesting car of slightly more modern vintage.

Classic rallying has been on an up-swing all over the country since the early 1990s, and events take place all over the world, some of them with enormous fields.

The pre-1982 era in South African rallying saw some amazing tussles between drivers like Sarel van der Merwe and Jan Hettema, taking on the likes of international stars Hannu Mikkola, Tony Pond and Jimmy McCrae, father of Subaru world champion in 1995, Colin McCrae.

It’s to commemorate this golden era that rallies like the Shell Helix event are held.

However, unlike special stage rallying, where the event is decided on the fastest times over closed sections of road, classic rallies are run on public roads at speeds below the national speed limit.

An ideal time to arrive at various control points on the route is set and points are added or deducted for arriving too early or too late.

Thus the role of the navigator is vital in this type of rallying.

But often classic rallies include a timed special stage or two, and this is where the more serious crews can indulge their passion for speed

This sample of cars is typical of a classic rally field and represent various extremes of the sport.

They have to look right…
they have to sound right, with lots of slurping from Weber side-draughts…
and yes, they go like bats-out-of-hell too, thanks to light bodyweights and plenty of power.

With the Shell Classic Rally starting in Pretoria next Saturday, late entries will still be accepted.

The cars need to be licensed for road use and novice entrants are welcome for the event.

Anyone interested in joining in the fun can call the Pretoria Motor Club secretary, Sue Ryder, on 083 588 8546.

The Jaguar XJ6 from the 1970s was never a serious contender in rallies for obvious reasons – too heavy and too ponderous over twisty roads.

But this example owned by Syd Brett is accepted in classic rallying because it represents the pinnacle of luxury motoring in the 1970s, when rallying was at its peak here.

Similarly the MGB GT was not rallied on a professional basis in South Africa, although in England it was a serious contender for a short spell in the 1960s.

Yet it’s an ideal classic rally machine, especially when modified. Chris Andrews’ pristine "B", as they are called by MG enthusiasts, has an overbored engine, side-draught Weber carburetion, a rally-race camshaft and a crisp exhaust note.

The car also has suspension up-grades, Minilite wheels, bigger disc brakes and a rally interior.
Laurie Steyn is one of the most successful classic rallyists in the country with many championships to his name, along with navigator Greg Pridgeon.

The Alfa Giulia Laurie campaigns is something of a legend, being based on the Giulia Rally version built by Alfa Romeo South Africa in limited numbers in the early 1970s.

Alfas were rallied very successfully here by the likes of Giovani Piazza-Musso in the glory days of the 1970s, and also by one Sarel van der Merwe.
Sarel van der Merwe remains our most successful rally driver, even though he retired a few seasons ago. He cut his teeth in Datsuns, but made his name in the international arena in a Ford Escort, similar to this example run by Wally Langsford.

This is a very special Mk I Escort, as it runs to Twin Cam specificiations.

This means it’s fitted with a Lotus Twin Cam engine. A few of these cars were imported by Ford South Africa in the early 1970s.
A rally Escort needs a few touches to maintain its classic status, which Wally’s car has. These include the Minilite wheels, lowered suspension and black grille indicating the car’s motorsport status as a production model.

While any pre-1982 car is welcome on the scene, those with period go-faster bits are prized by the serious enthusiast.

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