60 years of rallying in S. Africa

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The South African National Rally Championship is 60 years-old this year. After a delayed start, this year's rally took off in Secunda. /National Rally Championship

The South African National Rally Championship is 60 years old this year. After a delayed start, this year’s rally took off in Secunda.

The South African National Rally Championship is 60 years old this year. After a delayed start, this year’s rally took off in Secunda. /National Rally Championship

Benjamin Habig, one of the most exciting prospects to have made the move from carting into rallying, made his debut. He has now set his sights on making a name on the continental rally scene. CGTN’s Sias du Plessis has his story.

From early on Benjamin Habig knew he was destined to become a rally driver: “The moment I got hooked was through my dad, he rallied for a good 30 years plus and from when I could remember I was just about able to walk and I was going on the rallies, as soon as I could talk I think a few words afterward was Dad I want a rally car.”

The multiple South African karting champion says driving a rally car is a huge thrill and a very different challenge.
“It is not like driving a road car around a corner too quickly, everything is not working for you, you kind of have to be your ABS and your traction control and everything all at once while trying to make it to the end of the stage, so it is quite a nerve wracking and I could just say an extreme adrenalin pump if you will, it is just a bunch of excitement and business happening inside the car.”

The 22-year-old believes that the sport in South Africa will see a revival with the introduction of the VIVO GT Cup class which sees a 1-liter turbo Volkwagen Polo taking on the dusty roads of the rally circuit and that this cost-effective class could well draw other competitors from across Africa.

“I do see the guys from inwards in Africa coming down likewise us going up and I think it would be very interesting just to base yourself off of what is happening in other countries and where you stand on a continental basis at least, so I think it would be very interesting and I do think it is something that is possible.”

And as CGTN’s Sias Du Plessis reports, a lot is expected of the University of Pretoria student who is eager to make his mark on the sport, but he knows that with so many variables, he can only focus on one rally at a time before dreaming of one day driving for a team in the world-famous Dakar.

“I think the biggest thing and studying at the moment, life doesn’t work according to a textbook, so I think being in the car you learn to be adaptive, every corner is different, the conditions change constantly so learning to be adaptive and handle that pressure and handle a lot of information that you need to process at once will definitely help me in my future endeavors’ where ever I decide to go.”

As the son of a rally legend, Benjamin Habig will be looking to carve his own name into the South African rally history books, but he knows a smooth shift from karting to rallying driving is going to require every ounce of skill, courage, and focus to ensure he takes his own route to success in the sport that has coursed through his veins from when his father Jannie was a force on the WRC circuit.

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