|Second overall and second in class on the KZN Rally was a fitting reward for the Team ATS entry of Richard Leeke and Henry Kohne, after a weekend of ups and downs. The Natal Tour 2017 – run on March 10/11 and opening round of the South African National Rally Championship – did not start the way the Ford Fiesta crew hoped though and the pair struggled to find their rhythm early on day one.
At close of play, though second overall, they had lost nearly half-a-minute to leaders Guy Bottrill and Simon Vacy-Lyle – a gap which would require good fortune and skillful driving to make up in the remaining six timed runs on the Saturday.
On the second day the roads were once again extremely slippery, leading to a spin on the second corner of the first stage – and a rollover narrowly averted in the process. On resuming it transpired that the brakes had failed – the pedal went straight to the floor because of a burst hydraulic pipe.
This made the last 20km of the stage a challenging feat and cost the duo over two minutes of lost stage time.
Back at the service point the technical team fixed the problem and, having dropped to fourth place, the chase was well and truly on. With driver and navigator now both having found their rhythm, the team achieved some good stage times – despite a still-spongy brake pedal – to claw their way back into second place. With a “maximum attack” policy unwise with the brake issue, a decision was made to secure second place overall rather than risk undoing all their hard work.
Nevertheless, the team recorded a fastest time on one stage and seven second-fastest times, with only the spin on the fourth stage spoiling things. While it wasn’t the perfect result that Richard Leeke III was hoping for on the eve of his 21st birthday, it was still a very solid start to 2017.
Said Leeke: “We’ve got points in the bag, made some more discoveries about the car and ourselves and have got a good idea of what we’re up against this season. We’ve already turned our focus to the upcoming York Rally in Mpumalanga on April 21 and 22, where we intend going one better and bringing home that win!”