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2013-04-22 10:51

IN THE LEAD: South African rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton have won the Sasol Rally. They now lead the SA national championship by 12 points. Image: Motorpics

Reigning South African rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton have won the Sasol Rally, which ended on Saturday (April 20) in Nelspruit to make it two victories on the trot this season. They now lead the championship by 12 points.

Cronje said: "What a rally! It rained non-stop today, and we’ve certainly not had it easy – we’ve worked our butts off and had a few moments when we were right on the edge."


“This is the longest event on the calendar and it isn’t over until the fat lady sings…you certainly can’t ever get complacent,” Cronje said after his 11th win in the premier S2000 category.

Stages 13 and 14 had to be cancelled due to the weather – the second running of Spitskop and Magsleigh - after organisers deemed them to be two dangerous after the incessant rain. The first nine crews did in fact repeat Spitskop, before the decision was taken to cancel it.

“It was crazy – maybe the first time I’ve really felt scared in a rally car. One minute we were going straight down the road, and the next minute we were heading for the trees."

"There was just zero traction. It was the right call to cancel the stages – I just wish it had been taken earlier,” he said.


There were also some mechanical gremlins about when the car threw a fanbelt out after the alternator seized, and a change at the service point – which required the removal of the entire undertray of the car – revealed that the device had become completely clogged with mud. The only other issue the team experienced was a puncture after an altercation with a rock on the event’s opening stage – Olifantsgeraamte -  and a small off road excursion on the repeat of the stage 12.

Houghton said: "Conditions were tricky and on the first day (Friday, April 19) we really struggled with the mist, which cost us some time as we had decided to take a cautious approach."

"This really was a team effort once again, and our service guys and rally engineers were magnificent,” he said.  

Cronje/Houghton’s advantage after 173.1 km of stage distance (reduced from 210.7 km as a result of the cancellations) was 1min09sec, ahead of the second Ford Dealer Team S2000 Fiesta crewed by UK duo Matthew Wilson and Chris Patterson.

They had started day two (Saturday, April 20) with a reasonable advantage over their local team mates but slipped back when the damp conditions caused the cabin to mist up, even though the heated windscreen and the demister were functioning normally.  


"It was fantastic to be able to campaign our second Fiesta for Matthew Wilson and Chris Patterson, and return the opportunity which they gave us when we drove a WRC Fiesta in the Malcolm Wilson Rally in England at the beginning of March."

"To end the weekend with a one-two is as good as it gets," said Cronje.

"We’re on a roll now, and want to continue the momentum to the next event (Gauteng, end of May). Though the conditions will be vastly different, what we’ve learnt here in Mpumalanga will certainly enable us to continue our process of continuous improvement,” she said. 
Read more on:    robin houghton  |  mark cronje

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