MALMESBURY – Ashley Haigh-Smith and navigator Nail Burns of AHSRacing were unable to line up in their S1600 class Ford Fiesta at the Secunda Rally on Friday 20 May.
“Our travel time to Secunda is 16 hours,” explained Haigh-Smith from his team HQ in the Western Cape. “We missed that cut-off by an hour,” he said, “this after three weeks of near round-the-clock work by my engineers and others.”
Haigh-Smith’s team along with the expert work of Motor Cade Motorsport have been burning the midnight oil installing a new wiring system from Australian company, Haltech. “Technically we had two weeks from the previous rally to install the system,” he explains of the innovative new setup that’s never before been used in a rally car. “We managed to get it done in three days but a problem with the ignition set us back a further two.”
“Essentially this is all just part of R&D,” Haigh-Smith explains, “as we were kind of going in blind. We learnt a lot in a short space of time. We eventually realised there was a problem was a software problem in the ECU.”
Haltech worked flat-out on their side recoding the entire software. Once that was complete the system had to be re-engineered into the car, necessitating a new wiring setup. “This again took three days. While we were on the mapping – which takes two days – we got the car back only beginning this week.”
The team finally managed to get it working, early in the week but there was still a some niggles. One thing lead to another compounding time and technical issues.
“We normally plan to leave two days ahead, which falls into the new highways campaign from Regent,” Haigh-Smith explains. “We knew we were going to be pushing it, so we had three guys on standby to go up late Thursday night, but simply couldn’t get it done in time.”
“It’s very disappointing, especially for the team, everyone has been putting in so much hard work,” he says. “It’s really sad to let down all the sponsors and stuff, but we weren’t prepared to go to an event with this new system untested and compromise that way.”
“A special thanks must to the guys from Motor Cade Motorsport – Wessel put everything into making this thing work,” he said.
Haigh-Smith’s Championship title hopes now rest with the other drivers and lie in the mathematical possibilities after the Secunda Rally. He however remains optimistic and positive. “We’re now going to use this weekend as a test programme pushing everything to its limit. Come back strong on the 4th of June and give the guys a challenge during the last four events on the Championship,” he concluded.