Gemmell/Swan lead 2012 VW Rally
WARMER TIMES: Gemmell and Swan, this weekend leading a sodden VW Rally, in action in Gauteng earlier in the year. Image: Motorpics
Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Toyota) completed a wet first day of the two-day 2012 VW Rally in the Eastern Cape on Friday with a slim 5.1sec lead over former National champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley (Ford Fiesta).
Provisional results of round four of the SA Rally championship after three treacherously slippery gravel stages in the Gamtoos and Longmore Forest areas and a final tarmac super-special in Uitenhage saw Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee (Toyota) finish third, 13.3sec behind the Ford.
GRAVEL SECTION SHARED
Gemmell, Habig and Poulter each won a gravel special in their class S2000 all-wheel drive cars in a tight contest for the day’s overall lead, with Habig closing a 10.8sec gap to Gemmell on the final stage by more than five seconds. All four stages were run in rainy conditions which resulted in stage four, at the PE oval track and surrounds being cancelled because of flooding.
Championship leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Fiesta) find themselves 1min00.3 behind the leaders and in fourth place after spinning into a bank and completing the last four kilometres of the 24.7km stage in the Longmore Forest on a flat tyre.
Sasol Ford team mates Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey were fifth in the second S2000 Fiesta, 1min374 behind the leaders.
Hein Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (Peugeot 207) were to start Saturday’s seven stages in sixth place after finishing less than a second behind the Williams Ford and 25sec ahead of the VW Polo of former National champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries.
Fekken lost time in the opening stage when he went off the road, damaging the front of his car, and when he was forced to complete most of the 19km stage three in the Longmore Forest without power assistance on his steering.
Team Total’s Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin (Toyota Auris) claimed eighth place at the end of a tough day and were 2min8.6 behind the leaders. Making up the top 10 were Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (Polo), who are leading the S2000 Challenge class for older spec all-wheel drive cars, and Giniel de Villiers/Ralph Pitchford in a new Toyota Motorsport Auris.
The 2009 Dakar Rally winner and Pitchford were making their first appearance of the season after their debut appearance together in last year’s championship in Polo. De Villiers adopted a cautious approach in the treacherous conditions and was relieved to complete the day’s stages in one piece and in the top 10.
S1600 FIRST-DAY WINNERS
Pre-event contenders for a top-three finish who ran into problems on Friday included former champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (Polo), who had to complete the first two stages in two-wheel drive after a drive shaft kept pulling out. They were eventually classified 13th, 3min39.2 behind the leaders.
Provisional winners of the two-wheel drive S1600 category were Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie (Polo), who took the honours 43.8sec ahead of the Ford Fiesta R2 of Ashleigh Haigh-Smith and motoring journalist Patrick Vermaak, and 49sec ahead of the six-year-old Toyota RunX of veteran former champion Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee.
Tjaart Conradie/Kes Naidoo (RunX), Clint Weston/Herman Groenewald (Citroen C2 R2) and Paul Franken/Henry Kohne (Toyota Corolla) filled fourth to sixth places.