Blind Navigators’ Rallies are a unique part of South African Motorsport. As far as is known these rallies are not held anywhere else in the world.
Blind navigators’ rallies owe their existence to “fun runs” that the Lions Organisation held for blind people. The first blind navigators rally was held in Welkom in 1971 after a group of blind people took a decision that they would like to compete in motorsport in the same way as sighted people did.
The rally, held as a sealed-odometer regularity trial, attracted 22 entries. Soon afterwards the rallies were moved to Bloemfontein and showed exceptional growth.
Early in 1980, a Blind Navigators’ Rally Club was started as a branch of the Transvaal Motorcycle and Car Club, and the number of blind navigators rallies were increased to three.
Two years later, two more rallies were added and the five rounds became the TOTAL Northern Regions Blind Navigators’ Rally Championship. The first winner of the championship was a blind Indian lawyer from Durban, Vallie Sagadavan, who still has the distinction of being the first person of colour to win a motorsport championship.
Fred Vroomen, of the Bloemfontein branch of the Sports Car Club, has been organising the TOTAL Bloemfontein Blind Navigators Rally since 1971 and with one exception has organised all the Bloemfontein events held.
Four of the five rounds of the TOTAL Northern Regions Blind Navigators’ Rally Championship is held in Gauteng and organised by the TMCC.
Blind navigators’ rallies are currently one of the best supported sealed-odo events in the country and the Bloemfontein event in one year had more than 100 entries from all over the country. This event draws up to between 70 and 80 entries from all corners of the country annually.
The events are organised in accordance with the standing rules and regulations of Motorsport South Africa as well as the Sporting Code of the FIA.
A sixth blind navigators’ rally, an all tar event, is held annually by the Cape Car and Motorcycle Club in Cape Town.
Blind navigators have also successfully competed in in sighted events, veteran and vintage regularity runs, while a blind navigator, Johan Greyling and his driver Ernest van den Berg, won Class L (for special vehicles) in the 2001 25th TOTAL Economy Run.
|1959||The TOTAL-Renault Economy Run is held|
|1962||TOTAL announces that the winners of the TOTAL International Rally would be sponsored to attend and compete in the Monte Carlo Rally. ‘Scamp’ and Phil Porter were the first to go.|
|1968||Prince Rainier of Monaco enters a team in the TOTAL International Rally and presents the organisers with two special trophies for the event|
|1977||TOTAL agrees to sponsor the TOTAL Tara Rally in Namibia – the only rally to be named after a cat|
|1975||TOTAL takes over the sponsorship of the Milligan Vintage Trial|
|TOTAL agrees to sponsors the TOTAL Autumn Trial organised by the Cape Car and Motorcycle Club.|
|1975 – 1980||TOTAL sponsors the Trans-Kalahari Road Race in Botswana.|
|1977||The TOTAL International Rally achieves World Rally Driver’s Championship Status|
|1981||The First TOTAL Motorcycle Economy Run is held.|
|TOTAL sponsors the International Vintage Bentley Tour of South Africa|
|1988||The TOTAL Rally prize money is R50 000 with a first prize of R20 000|
|1989||The TOTAL Tara Rally achieves African Continent Rally Championship status|
|The TOTAL Tar rally prize money goes up to R75 000|
|1990||TOTAL and Firestone establish the Erica Motoring Club, the only Club catering for women in the country|
|1990||Geoff Mortimer and ‘Spotti’ Woodhead win the 1988, 1989 and 1990 TOTAL Rallies and earn R75 000 in prize money by winning all three events.|
|1995||Curt Alchin wins the Stannic National Production car championship in Class D with a Honda assisted by TOTAL|
|2000||TOTAL announces its return to event sponsorship with the sponsorship of the TOTAL Rally of South Africa, a South African National Rally Championship event and a round of the African Rally Championship.|
|Team TOTAL crews in the SA National Rally Championship win all three Group N classes – Group N1, N2, N3 and the overall Group N title.|
|Team TOTAL AMG scores a one-two overall win the Class B of the Midas Production Car Championship, with Martin Steyn and Curt Alchin. Steyn also wins the overall Midas Production Car Championship title.|
|2001||TOTAL reaffirms its sponsorship of the TOTAL Rallye South Africa.|
|The TOTAL Economy Run celebrates its 25th anniversary|
The involvement in and support for motorsport by TOTAL in South Africa since 1957 has been more than just a philanthropic gesture by the company. TOTAL’s decision to sponsor motorsport in 1957, should be viewed as part of the marketing strategy the company’s management had developed when it entered the petroleum market in 1954.
Its entry into the market was not warmly welcomed by the established oil companies at the time, and in fact, TOTAL was given one year before it would disappear from the scene. However, the prophets of doom had miscalculated the resolve and marketing abilities of the early management’s of TOTAL.
The sponsorship of motorsport, was a pioneering feat at a time when sport sponsorships was hardly of any marketing or promotional importance in South Africa. At the same time the company entered the agricultural market with a vengeance and completely revolutionised the supply of petroleum products in this market.
It also entered the unknown area of the promotion of and support for nature and environmental conservation.
Today, four decades later, TOTAL is still a leader in all three of these areas and in many cases the pioneering spirit of those early managers is very much part of these activities.
The company’s involvement in motorsport over the years gone by, has been more than just handing out cheques to motor clubs and motoring enthusiasts. The success of its motorsport sponsorship, has been characterised by the very hands-on approach. For this reason, few people would gain-say the fact that TOTAL laid the foundations for the sport as we know it today.
The view then, which is still the view today, was that the company’s sponsorship of and support for motorsport, must play a role in the growth and development of the sport. And if that had not been the case, TOTAL would certainly have withdrawn from the motorsport scene long ago.
Its active involvement in the sport, in addition also had to benefit the company. Had to make a contribution to building the good name and image of TOTAL, and promote its products. The fact that TOTAL was able to survive those early years and grow into the organisation it is today, can be attributed in no small way to its involvement in motorsport.
After all, our business activities are aimed at the owners of motor cars who are the end-users of our products and who benefit from the experience we have gained by testing our products in rallies, on the race tracks and elsewhere.
Much of what is today part of motorsport, developed out of TOTAL’s early involvement. The fact that the media finally agreed to give credit to the company as the sponsor of the TOTAL International Rally, instead of referring to “the sponsored” rally, the development of special stage rallies, the wearing of crash helmets and seat belts, and introducing timing methods not previously used.
There is no doubt that TOTAL’s support for motorsport touched just about every facet of the sport.
And just as the “TOTAL” as people still refer to the TOTAL International Rally, was unique at the time, the sponsorship of a series of blind navigators’ rallies and the introduction of the TOTAL Economy Run in 1977, are equally two unique events on the annual motorsport calendar.
It also goes without saying, that thanks to the commitment of the company and its staff to the promotion and marketing of its motorsport activities, it played and still plays a major role in increasing the popularity of the sport. The development of new and potential talent is on-going.
Just as is the case with its involvement in the promotion of environmental conservation and its involvement in community and other projects aimed at the upliftment of the quality of` life of the peoples of South Africa, TOTAL’s backing for motorsport over the past 40 years, is something to be proud of.
As part of an international energy group, active in some 100 countries throughout the world, TOTAL South Africa’s motorsport programme is an integral part of the motorsport activities of the TOTAL Group. In France, where the company has a huge involvement through its link with Peugeot and Citroën, in Formula 1, rallies, marathon rally raids, truck racing and the 24 hour Le Mans, in Britain in British Touring Cars and rallying, in Belgium in Touring Cars and in the United States in support for Nascar.
TOTAL is probably the best known brand in motorsport in the world.