RALLY CHAMPS: Gerhard Snyman and Mark Cronje won the Polokwane Rally allowing the latter to grab the 2015 championship. Image: Eric Buijs>
Cape Town - Mark Cronje has sealed the 2015 South African Rally Championship by winning the final event of the year, the Polokwane Motor Rally, in emphatic style in his Ford Performance Fiesta S2000.
Cronje, also the SA drivers’ champion in 2012 and 2013, and co-driver Gerhard Snyman took the lead after the first stage on the final day of the rally in and around Polokwane, never to be headed again.
'Event to forget'
Cronje said: "We could not have wished for a better finish, it has been a hard season and sealing the championship today makes it worth all the effort from the team during the season."
They finished the final stage of the event 22.9 seconds clear of Henk Lategan/Barry White in their Volkswagen Polo. Lategan/White finished the final national event 7.4 seconds ahead of former Dakar champion and the overnight rally leaders Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan in their Toyota Yaris.
For Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee, the 2014 champions in their Yaris, the only other team to have won events this season and with a realistic chance to challenge Cronje for the championship, it was an event to forget. Their challenge faltered on Friday when they lost over 20 seconds after suffering a puncture, and power steering problems on the stages on Ssturday meant even more time lost. They eventually finished fourth, more than a minute behind the victorious Cronje/Snyman.
However, by finishing the event Coetzee secured the 2015 national rally title for navigators, with Robin Houghton, Cronje’s navigator for the first six rallies, in the runner-up position, even while not competing in the final two events.
Gugu Zulu/Hilton Auffray (VW Polo), in their quest to wrestle third place in the championship away from De Villiers/Swan, suffered suspension problems in the first stage on Saturday – effectively ending their onslaught. Their team mates Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries endured the same, losing the right rear wheel of their Polo in the next stage, and also had to withdraw.
Meanwhile young Ernie van der Walt/Greg Godrich slowly moved up the leader board in their Yaris to finish fifth overall, about four minutes adrift the leaders.
Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt (Toyota Auris) drove a steady rally to finish sixth overall, thereby also winning their class and the 2015 Class NRC4 series.
Namibian Marko Himmel/Gert Nienaber (VW Polo R2) won the Class S1600 battle in Polokwane, followed by Richard Leeke Jr. / Rikus Fourie (Fiesta R2) and AC Potgieter and Tommy du Toit (Polo R2). However, by finishing fifth in class the Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2 pair of Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle did enough to secure their second consecutive S1600 championship.
The constructors’ prize for the Polokwane Rally was won by Toyota, and by doing so securing the Manufacturers’ championship for 2015.