The final chapter of the 2017 South African National Rally Championship is about to be written, and if there’s a happy ending for 21-year-old Richard Leeke Jnr, he will emerge as the youngest rally champion in the history of the local sport. He has already written his name into the record books this year by becoming the youngest-ever winner of a national championship event.
Leeke and his co-driver, Henry Köhne, go into the Carnival City Rally on October 20 with a four-point lead over Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-lyle, the two crews having set the pace since the season got underway in March. Leeke/Köhne have been more consistent and reliable and this undoubtedly gives them a psychological advantage: to win the championship, Botterill/Vacy-lyle must win overall, while their arch-rivals have a little bit of wiggle room.
Assuming Botterill/Vacy-lyle win the grand finale – centred around Carnival City on the East Rand with most stages taking place towards Heidelberg — they will take the title, even if Leeke/Köhne finish second. That scenario will see them end the season with identical points with the champions decided on a superior number of wins. However, if Botterill/Vacy-lyle are second or lower, the ATS Motorsport Young Guns (as they’re known) merely need to finish one position below to be champions.
“The season has been a tough and character-building one,” says Leeke, “but we knew that was going to be the case. We took a long-term view right from the beginning and knew that if we were to stay in contention against better-funded and more experienced teams the starting point would be consistency. The ATS Motorsport Fiesta has been both fast and reliable and we’ve been able to score points in all six rounds so far.”
They’re confident that a similar approach in the final round will net them the big prize and will roll down the start ramp on Friday focussed on a clinical approach that’ll get them to the finish.