EXTENSIVE DAMAGE: Leeroy Poulter's Toyota Yaris had heavy damage after hitting a kerb in the pit complex of Killarney race track. Image: Wheels24/ Sean Parker
Cape Town - The penultimate round of the national rally championship delivered many spills and thrills, Wheels24's rally-mad Sean Parker chose the best five moments.
The 2015 South African National Rally Championship headed to Cape Town on Friday and Saturday (September 18-19) with a lot at stake.
S2000 class leader and defending champion team Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Toyota Yaris), fresh from winning the off-road championship, was leading second-placed Mark Cronje (Ford Fiesta) by seven points.
The Cape Dealer Rally did not go according to plan for Toyota, as Cronje, backed by new navigator Gerhard Snyman dominated Day 1 at Killarney race track and Cape Gate shopping centre, winning four consecutive stages and built up an impressive 18.6 second over second-placed Henk Lategan/ Barry White (Volkswagen S2000).
Poulter hit the kerb in the pit complex at Killarney, losing two minutes on Stage 2. A frustrating day for the defending champion.
Drama-filled Day 2
The second and final day of the rally took place in Malmesbury and the pressure was firmly on Poulter to claw back time and maintain his lead in the overall championship.
Poulter/Coetzee won their first stage of the rally on Saturday (Sept 19) morning, leading Toyota to a 1-2 stage win, Giniel de Villiers/ Carolyn Swann were just 0.1 seconds behind. That would be the last stage win of the rally for Poulter as he rolled the car in Stage 9, ending their rally premturely.
Poulter said: "We pushed hard right from the start, but things didn't go our way."
Cronje has a nine point lead over Poulter in the drivers championship with the final event of the season, the Polokwane Rally, is scheduled for October 16-17. If Poulter wins in Polokwane, Cronje can finish third and still win the championship.
If you're a rally fan, try your best to check out the action.
We've picked out the best five moments from the rally:
Poulter/Coetzee pull away in Stage 1 in slow-motion at Killarney race track.
Poulter/Coetzee hit Killarney kerb
After losing 6.6 seconds to arch rival and championship runner-up Mark Cronje (with new navigator Gerhard Snyman) in the first stage, Poulter/Coetzee hit a kerb in the pit complex of the track, causing the rear of the Yaris to hit a wall.
The force ripped out the rear wheel and damaged the rear suspension, forcing the pair to coast to the finish – losing over 2 minutes to leader Cronje in the process.
Ashley Haigh-Smith in the spotlight
Watch S1600 third place finisher Ashley Haigh-Smith speed around Stage 6 at Cape Gate shopping centre in Kraaifontein.
The Fiestas' spotlights, which had come loose during the run, managed to wedge itself underneath the car. The crowd certainly enjoyed it as the video demonstrates below.
De Villiers/Swann crash
SA motorsport legend and Dakar winner explains what happened: "We went slightly wide on a turn leading up to a tight water splash on Stage 10.
"I didn't realise it at the time, but we had picked up a puncture when we went wide, and this caused the car to turn in slower than expected at the water splash." Click on the post below to view the video.
Gugu Zulu and Hilton Auffray's podium
Gugu Zulu, arguably the country's most popular motorsport personality, was ecstatic after finishing second at the Cape Dealer Rally.
Zulu had this to say after the event: "Second place on the podium is my best finish to date. We were running a shorter ratio on the gearbox, which probably cost us a bit of time against our rivals. The longer, sweeping stages out here meant I was looking for a bit more pace. This was a very tough and long event."
Cronje's flawless weekend
Former champion Cronje and new navigator Snyman hardly put a tyre wrong in their Ford Fiesta, dominating the first four stages, building a lead and then maintaining it with a cool, calm head.
The new S2000 drivers championship leader knows he needs a repeat performance in Polokwane to seal the title. Can he do it? We'll have to wait and see.