It's good to be back: Rautenbach

HARARE - Zimbabwe's two-time African Rally champion Conrad Rautenbach was convinced he had done his time behind the wheel and experienced all the thrills to be had as a rally driver.

At 27, he had won everything on the local scene and had gone on to win the African Rally Championship twice in 2007 and 2011.

A brief sojourn on the World Rally Championship put the cherry on the cake.

It only seemed natural that Rautenbach, who was starting a family and learning the ropes at Chisumbanje Ethanol Project — would walk away from the sport that brought him fame.

Well, that was before a call came from Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa a few months ago made him change his mind.

The team needed a skilled replacement for Leeroy Poulter, who had just undergone surgery to remove an anomalous growth from the right side of his brain.

They did not look any further than Rautenbach to partner navigator Robert Howie for the later stages of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship.

He did not waste time with the Total Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux posting some impressive results.

The 32-year-old, who will be the only Zimbabwean at the 2017 Dakar Rally, took part in the 2016 Dubai International Rally last weekend.

The rough and sandy terrain of the area allowed Rautenbach to test his handling skills in conditions that closely mimic those encountered on many Dakar stages.

“I went to Dubai to do a bit of testing and getting used to the dunes coming. You know from Zimbabwe we don’t have any dunes here so it was good to get some experience,” he said. “At the time I stopped, I had really I wanted to do Dakar. I went to the 2014 Dakar Rally with Toyota just to follow and get a feel of the action. I have always wanted to do it and when  this opportunity came up, I took it.”

In the 2017 Dakar Rally, the 32-year-old will be the third team member under the Toyota South Africa Motors and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa, joining Nasser Al Attiyah and Giniel De Villiers.

The iconic event widely regarded as the ultimate test of man and machine will be held from January 2 to 14.

It will go through three countries (Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina) for a total of nearly 9 000km, of them, 4 000 will be timed.

Rautenbach will be among a total of 316 participants from 59 nationalities and nine women which form part of the list of registered competitors.

While many of the competitors will brand their helmets with the name of their sponsors, Rautenbach’s head protection gear will be emblazoned Zimbabwe.

“It’s my old helmet, I had it when I won the African Rally. I was born here and I’m a proud Zimbo, so I will definitely be wearing it with pride.”

Rautenbach is set to leave for the Dakar Rally where the life of competitors and their vehicles will be made uncomfortable with the scorching South American summer temperatures and nosebleed-inducing altitudes on Boxing Day.

Rautenbach admits it will be a tough four weeks.

“My wife has been supportive. She knows this is my passion and what I love doing. It’s just that it would be hard to leave on Boxing Day. It will be four weeks away from home but it comes with the sport,” he said.

Comments (2)

I would be very happy for his success and congratulate him ,but the moment i hear of the name Rautenbach it pains me with the omount of pain the people in Chipinge are enduring at the hands of their family business,workers going for months without pay

Badza - 19 December 2016

Visit Chipangayi and see how the road is damaged with the trucks moving between Chisumbanje and Chipangayi but no rehabilitation,i am not against the business development but the lack of social responsibility and making profit out of the poor people,the family business has gone to an extend of owning even some roads in Chipangayi area,can the media especially you people at Daily news visit and help us expose this vicious exploitation of mankind,the rich becoming more ritcher at the expense of the poor,do we need a second revolution-NO but people must learn to core exist and share the little resources that we have

Badza - 19 December 2016

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.