2017 Kicking off Fast!

2017 Kicking off Fast!


What a rollercoaster of months it has been since my last post!

Our end of the 2016 didn’t finish how we wanted with our local rally ending in the rally polly. But saying this we had not given up on making it to the top of the pinnacle of the rallying motorsport.

This passed month has been really hectic. After a couple of MTB races in 2016 Craig Kolesky and myself had entered in for the ABSA Cape Epic. Another review of our eight days in the saddle will come in the next week or so, but all-in-all it was a incredible adventure and I cannot thank enough Craig for all his motivation and help. (For more info check my Facebook )

But back to four wheels: Firstly, some changes in our paddock. After nine years of being a competitor in the South African National Championship I won’t be competing in a full season. We will however race as many rounds in our Ford Fiesta R2 as the schedule allows.

That schedule is the Peugeot 208 Rally Cup in France.

This year, Peugeot Sport is running the fifth edition of its 208 Rally Cup which will be based on a calendar of seven rounds (gravel and asphalt) of the FFSA – Fédération Française du Sport Automobile French Rally Championship. This will be our full focus.


208 Rally Cup

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This first round was gravel and is in the books. It was first race with my new navigator Veronica Engan, who has a Norwegian Overall Championship and a DMACK Fiesta Trophy title among her various achievements over here 17-year career so far.

And, while it was not the overall result we were after, I took great learnings from it.

Day one at Terre des Causses was the proverbial baptism of fire and the overall standings don’t do justice to how we performed on the day. But, considering we literally hadn’t been in this car since August 2016, had done no testing prior and, myself and Veronica had never raced together things turned out fairly well.

Ashley Haigh-Smith

Essentially then the first loop of stages on day one was a high-speed recce. With it came the teething problems. On the first stage we realised something was wrong with the intercom, so we had hardly any comms and lost about 20-odd seconds on the first stage because of it and this repeated again over the rest of the first (a loop being a amount of stages we do with out service in-between).

We managed to overcome the problem slightly by Veronica having to push her helmet closer to her mouth (doing this while reading the notes and doing stage corrections) and to top it off it was pissing with rain. This saw us lying 12th after stage three.

After service and into the next loop of stages our goal was to push up into the Top 8.

During this loop something was amiss with the car, yet we still ran only some 10 seconds off the pace and the rhythm was coming back.

On the last stage we suffered a massive overshoot and had to reverse and then three corners later the power steering belt snapped. This then led to the alternator not charging which in turn meant the battery was not charging, resulting in some some issues with the electronics.

But that, as they say, is rallying.

That evening we spent a lot of time working on the notes and this is where Veronica’s experience helped loads and gave me confidence back into he notes.

Day two saw us start with a clear mind, however we woke up to a technical penalty that cost us 03:30. The penalty was handed down because when the car was changed from tarmac spec to gravel spec the top mounts of the dampers where not put back to position which meant our wheel base length was 6mm too long.

The penalty saw us dropped us from 10th till last.

It was a big disappointment, but we decided to make the most of it and just run as hard as we could. Heading to the first stage of day two (now 77th on the road and last 208) we where going really well and the notes were working but we managed to catch the car in front of us very quickly, which held us up a bit.

For stage two we asked if we could get a two minute dust gap – there wasn’t much dust but just so we would catch him over the distance-recon. (In France they run 1min dust gaps between cars if there are over 155 competitors).

They did eventually give us a two minute gap.

The stage was super fast stage and we went really well. We did however overshoot one corner because of a note error on my side but we were seventh fastest on the stage which meant we were back on pace with the front runners.

After going back to service and reviewing our footage we headed out for the second pass of first two stages of day 2. Once again caught the competitor in front of us. These things happen and at the time it can be frustrating but you learn a lot!

The last stage went really well early on and I was pushing quite hard. Unfortunately I cooked the brakes a bit and had to take the last eight kilometres really slow as we had no stopping power, but still got seventh fastest time. All I can say the next gravel event it going to exciting!

Our next event is on tarmac in three weeks, haven’t been on tarmac in a lot of years, so it’s going to be an interesting experience but we up for the challenge!

AHS Calendar

31 Mar-  2 Apr                208 Rally Cup Rnd 1
20-22 Apr                       208 Rally Cup Rnd 2
2-4 Jun                           208 Rally Cup Rnd 3
21-22 Jul                        SA National Rally Championship Rnd 4
7-9 Jul                            208 Rally Cup Rnd 4
25-27 Aug                      208 Rally Cup Rnd 5
22-23 Sep                      SA National Rally Championship Rnd 6
6-8 Oct                           208 Rally Cup Rnd 6
24-26 Nov                      208 Rally Cup Rnd 7

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