SA rally hopefuls seal maiden win
THE TASTE OF A MAIDEN VICTORY: Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey celebrated their first win in the local national rally championship in Bapsfontein this weekend.
Jon Williams won a hard-fought Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally to take his maiden South African Rally Championship victory by a narrow 6.9 seconds after nine dusty and rocky stages around the Bapsfontein area.
With this win Williams and co-driver Cobus Vrey jump into third place on the championship log, seven points behind their team mates Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton and maintain Sasol Racing Rally Team’s full house of victories this season, three out of three, following Cronje’s victories on the opening round in kwaZulu-Natal and the Sasol Rally a month later.
An elated Williams said at the Zwartkops Raceway finish: “I am so happy to win my first rally on such a tough event. I’ve worked hard for it over the years and it’s finally paid off.”
BIG MISFORTUNE, BIG GAIN
Championship leaders Cronje and Houghton retired from the event 2km into the first stage after they hit an unmarked hole in the road and damaged a rear rim and brake assembly.
Running day two under the SuperRally rules (that allows a competitor back into the event with with a five-minute per stage missed penalty) the top duo set off to claim some valuable points from an otherwise fruitless weekend.
The race winners, however, benefited from their team mates' misfortune and drove sensibly to finish the first stage with their Fiesta S2000 intact.
Vrey said: “We saw all the cars on the side of the road with punctures and stayed well in the middle of the road and were cautious over the rough stuff.”
Vrey and Williams finished Saturday second overall, 35.9 seconds behind leader Jan Habig in another Fiesta, but were quick out of the blocks on Sunday morning and won the opening stage.
“It was never going to be easy chasing down someone like Jan Habig, " Williams said, “but we wanted to apply some pressure to him. In the very next stage, Habig had a puncture and fell to fourth.".
This relief proved short-lived, though, as other hopefuls such as JP Damseaux (Toyota Auris) and Hein Lategan (Peugeot) hunted down the Sasol pair in the closing stages.
The teams arrived at Zwartkops Raceway with one stage remaining not knowing what was required to secure their win since there was an unresolved timing issue from earlier in the day.
“I tried to put it out of my mind and concentrate on driving smoothly and braking at the right place. I was quite relaxed,” Williams said.
Cronje and Houghton continue to lead the SA Rally championship with 60 points with the Toyota factory pair of Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (57 points) and Williams and Vrey (53 points) completing the top three.
The next outing, the Volkswagen Rally, will be held over July 13/14 in the Eastern Cape.