Fiesta is 2012 SA Rally champ
IT'S A WRAP: The Belgian/Dutch combination of Bjorn Degandt (left) and Hans Weijs Jnr logged their first win in the 2012 SA rally championship with victory in the Garden Route Rally. Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton were crowned champs.
The Belgian/Dutch duo of Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn Degandt (Volkswagen Polo) completed their guest season in the 2012 South Africa National Rally Championship by winning the season finale, but the day belong to Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton, who drove conservatively to clinch the title.
Weijs/Degandt recorded their first win for the year in the Garden Route Rally, which ended on November 2, 2012, by winning seven of the 11 stages. They also had to overcome a 2min20sec delay on Friday when they were forced to stop to change a wheel.
FOURTH FINISH TO LIFT CUP
It was also the first win of the year for Volkswagen, while former champions Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson finished second for the factory team.
Jon and Doug Williams were third in the Ford Fiesta, one of the few crews to avoid punctures on the fast and stony forest roads, as Cronje/Houghton finished fourth in another Fiesta to wrap their championship fight. Their nearest championship rivals Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan were fifth in their Toyota Auris.
The final points score was 155 to 144 after eight rounds, with Cronje/Houghton winning five and Gemmell/Swan two.
Cronje/Houghton had led at the overnight stop in Wilderness on the Friday, over a minute ahead of Kuun/Hodgson and Williams/Williams, who in turn were separated by less than two seconds after almost 100 kilometres of gravel road racing.
Gemmell and Swan, who lost over three minutes with a puncture on Friday’s special stage four, were ninth overnight and pushed hard throughout Saturday to improve to fifth at the finish despite another puncture on special stage 11. They closed the gap to the Ford pair from over three minutes to 9.5 seconds and with one stage to go, led by nine seconds, although this lead was wiped out when they suffered another puncture on stage 11.
S2000 CHALLENGE and S1600 BATTLES
Sixth were Japie van Niekerk/Gerhard Snyman (Volkswagen Polo) as Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin, who wrapped up the inaugural S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars in their Polo at the previous round in Limpopo, were seventh overall and again the first S2000 Challenge finishers.
Wilro Dippenaar/Morne du Toit (Toyota RunX) were the only other competitors in the S2000 Challenge in the absence of Henk Lategan (who is writing his matric exams) and Barry White (VW Polo) and finished 11th overall, over six minutes behind Zulu/Peskin, after experiencing clutch and gearbox problems on Saturday.
Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Auris) converted a disappointing 14th overall on Friday after three punctures and braking problems to finish eighth by clocking second places in the first four stages and winning the last two.
Completing the top 10 was Mark Cronje’s brother Gavin and co-driver Van Aardt Schoeman (Ford Fiesta).
Prominent retirements on the final day included former champions Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries (VW Polo), who were fourth overnight but damaged the VW’s rear suspension when they went off the road on stage seven.
Former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley (Ford Fiesta) were lying fifth after the penultimate stage when they suffered a broken steering rack on the open section to the start of the final stage.
Craig Trott/Robbie Coetzee (Toyota RunX) clinched the Two Wheel Drive Championship for S1600 cars with third place behind the Ford Fiesta R2 of Ashley Haigh-Smith/Craig Parry and the Citroen C2 R2 of Clint Weston/Pierre Jordaan.
The Manufacturers championship was won by Ford with a total of 744 points. Toyota finished the 2012 season on 710 points and Volkswagen on 528 points.