CAPE DEALER RALLY: Team Ford's Mark Cronje and Gerhard Snyman stretched their lead at the 2015 Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in Malmesbury. Image: Quickpic / Ford
Cape Town - Even a late change of navigator could prevent Ford driver Mark Cronje from achieving an imposing victory in an incident-filled 2015 Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, thereby taking command of this year’s SA national rally championship.
Cronje’s victory in the Ford Fiesta S2000 in the penultimate round of the series, coupled with a non-finish by his nearest competitors and championship leaders Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Toyota Yaris S2000) has swung the championship odds firmly in his favour.
'Event to forget'
For Poulter and Coetzee, and for the Toyota team, it was an event to forget. After damaging their Yaris S2000 yesterday in an altercation with a wall at the Killarney race track, the pair today had to push hard to make up lost time.
They managed to move up to fifth position by the end of stage 8, but in the next stage Poulter hit a series of jumps at high speed, the car went end over end and rolled into a ditch next to the road, ending their onslaught.
Meanwhile Cronje and new navigator Gerhard Snyman went on to finish the 13th and final stage of the Western Cape event in a time of 1h53min59.8 to beat Gugu Zulu/Hilton Auffray (Volkswagen Polo S2000) by a full 3mins23 seconds, a country mile in rally terms.
The proverbial sting in the tail of the rally saw to the demise of Henk Lategan/Barry White (Polo S2000), the only team to really threaten Cronje/Snyman, in the final stage due to suspension failure.
Lategan/White won five stages on the trot in their quest to catch the Ford crew and stood a real chance when Cronje was penalised with 20 seconds for hitting a chicane in Stage 11, but in the end it was in vain. Even while not finishing they were classified fifth under Superally rules, but will only score half the points.
For the experienced Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries (Polo S2000) it was a rally of ups and downs.
Having worked their way up to fourth they gained a further position with the demise of Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan, spectacularly rolling their Yaris S2000 out of the rally in stage ten, promptly losing it by being docked with 20 seconds for also hitting the chicane in the next stage.
This promoted Zulu/Auffray to third, and with Lategan failing to finish the final stage, Fekken/Arries claimed the last podium position – 28.5seconds adrift of their team mates.
At this stage Enzo Kuun/Kes Naidoo, after an indifferent rally in the Ford Fiesta S2000, looked set for fifth, but it was not to be, as in the final run the Fiesta’s engine shouted enough, leaving them stranded 1.7km inside the stage. They were eventually classified sixth under Superally rules.
Up the order
The high rate of attrition amongst the leading contenders saw privateers Ernie van der Walt/Greg Godrich moving up the order, the youngster, even while feeling under the weather with flu, achieving his best result in a national event to date by finishing fourth in the Yaris S2000.
For Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt (Toyota Auris S2000) consistency was the watchword on their run to seventh overall and first in class NRC4.
They were followed by class S1600 winners Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios R2) who, after an initial battle with Richard Leeke Junior/Rikus Fourie (Fiesta R2), built up a huge lead to win by over a minute from team mates Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk van Heerden in their borrowed Etios R2.
Third in class, but also finishing under Superally rules after suspension failure on their Castrol backed Ford Fiesta R2 were local racers Ashley Haigh-Smith and Niall Burns.
In NRC2 the only finishers were Etienne Malherbe/ Mauritz Malherbe (Datsun SSS) and Paul van Dyk/Quinton Swarts (VW Golf). Only twelve out of the 34 original starters made it to parc ferme at the finish – testament of how tough the event was on cars and crew.
The final rally of the season, the Polokwane Rally, scheduled for October 16-17 in the Limpopo Province promises to be a humdinger.