CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY: Toyota's Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee are the 2016 SA National Rally champions. Image: Quickpic / David Ledbitter
Malmesbury - Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee clinched the 2016 South African Rally Championship after ending the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in 2nd place overall.
The drive of the event came from rally winner Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan in their Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris S2000, who led from start to finish. With S2000 phased out at the end of the season, De Villiers’ car has been sold overseas, making his second victory a fitting end to his rally career.
For Poulter, it was another feather in his illustrious cap, as he has won both the National Rally and National Off-Road Championships in the same year, a feat last achieved by Hannes Grobler in 1986, when Elvéne Coetzee was just three years old!
Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy Lyle crashed their Toyota Etios R2 into a gatepost in stage 8; the non-finish and zero points becomes their dropped score for the year, and they cannot be beaten to the S1600 title, their third in succession.
De Villiers took command of the rally from the first stage at Killarney Raceway on Friday. With an overnight lead of 6.7 seconds the Toyota Gazoo driver won six of Saturday’s eight stages, to build a winning margin of 5mins52.1 seconds.
“I really wanted to win my last rally”, said De Villiers at the finish. “Other than a slow puncture after stage 7, we had a clean run. It’s sad to see the end of S2000 as they are great to drive and watch”.
Poulter, who may have competed in his last rally, was satisfied with his result. “I’ve never had much luck on this event in the past. I’ve had a blown engine and a massive roll, so I’ll take this finish. Giniel drove like a man possessed”.
Poulter and Coetzee suffered a double puncture when, in a vain chase, he cut a corner too closely and sliced two tyres open. The champion designate changed one tyre at the end of the stage, and limped 20km back to service at 15km/h, arriving 24 minutes late and incurring a 4 minute penalty.
Third overall was Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt in their Toyota Auris S2000 after a clean run – until the final stage. The Toyota clipped a gatepost which re-arranged the front of the previously immaculate car.
Richard Leeke/Henry Kohne (Ford Fiesta R2) took their second consecutive S1600 victory after Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle retired. Although they came under pressure from Paulus Franken/Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo R2) late in the rally after the flying VW crew won five stages it was settled in the penultimate stage when the two rivals set virtually identical times.
AC Potgieter/Tommy du Toit brought their VW Polo R2 home to yet another podium in spite of losing second gear in stage 6 and having to run stages seven and eight as well, before the team could replace the faulty unit.
Chris Coertse/Greg Godrich (Toyota Etios R2) battled on the tarmac stages with failing brakes; a change of brake fluid solved that problem. Power steering issues kept them of the podium pace but they did enough to end 4th in class.
George Smalberger/Chris Brand (VW Polo R2) ended 5th in class after losing 24 minutes in stage eight when the driveshaft kept pulling out, forcing them to stop each time to put it back.
Other retirements included Ashley Haigh Smith/Niall Burns (Ford Fiesta R2) after rolling out in Saturday’s first stage. Wilro Dippenaar/Kesevan Naidoo (Fiesta S2000) retired in the first stage with engine problems.
The final round of the SA Rally Championship is on the 4th and 5th November in the Bronkhorstspruit area.