From the passenger seat it was impressive enough ? Hergen attacked from the get-go, left foot braking hard into the first turn and chasing flat out from the outset. That?s the rally way ? there is no practice, you go flat out from the moment the light goes green on the stage start tree.
But we're running his Polo on Port Elizabeth's Aldo Scribante racetrack as Hergen quickly adapts and gets his brake points apexes more finely sorted. All the time it's full power, bang-bang-bang through the sequential 'box and hard and sharp on the brakes ? his last lap is a beauty as all the apexes line up to produce one that would see him well up the Production Car Class A grid at Scribante.
The South African rally champion reckons it still hasn't quite dawned on him that he's got that red number one on his rear windows. "It was so close this year ? we won one rally by one second, another by nine and a third by twelve seconds," the lanky and gentle natured Fekken explains. "That's three rally wins with a total margin you can lose in just one spin!"
"We never had the chance to just cruise in at the end of a rally, it was flat out every centimetre," Navigator Pierre Arries adds.
"Those Toyotas are damn fast," Team boss Michael Barnard points out. "When Mark Cronje was running away in the first rally, Hergen put his head down and found the pace when certain others spent more time looking for excuses.
"The Polo is already five years into its program and it's still one of the best S2000 cars out there," Barnard adds proudly.
S2000 could become the basis of world rallying the way things stand ? the FIA is considering putting a turbo on these engines along with a kit of other parts in its efforts to slash the extreme costs that the current crop of WRC cars demand. That would be a certain feather in the cap of SA rallying.
S2000 was introduced in 2004 and South Africa was instrumental in the formula being adopted as too seems to be on an international scale. Indeed both this VW and its fierce Toyota rival were designed, developed and regularly win rallies here and overseas. S2000 is not cheap ? at R2.8-million all-in, the car is a veritable treasure chest of rally kit, but compared to the modern WRC turbo cars with outer space electronics, it?s a snip at the price.
The S2000 formula calls for normally aspirated 2.0-litre engines driving a 'control' transmission and all-wheel drive system ? which means you can only use one kind of gearbox and one kind of all-wheel drive system ? and you build your car around that.
So the Polo is powered by a full-house touring car-spec normally aspirated 2-litre 4-cyliner DOHC 16V engine.
All-aluminium, it features a race spec crank, rods and pistons and wild rally camming, a trick fuel injection system along with a competition ECU and control system. It drives that six-speed sequential gearbox and all four wheels through that centrally supplied 50-50 split all-wheel drive system and it's stopped by proper competition brakes.
Today the car is running tar spec semi-slick rubber on big rims, but the suspension set-up is for a tar stage in a dirt rally rather than being prepared to full tarmac spec. When we finally get my bulk strapped into an adapted harness, the chief mechanic Riekus Schmidt shows me the way to the ignition switch and starting button and the Polo bursts into life. Sounds like a lion panting with a swarm of bees nearby as it idles.