PORT ELIZABETH, Eastern Cape - The halfway mark in the SA National Rally championship was reached here over July 11/12 with reigning champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) winning the VW Rally and improving their championship position after four rounds to fourth.It was a comfortable victory in the end for the Ford pair and their second in a row after triumphing in the 2014 PMC Gauteng Rally in May.They completed the 15 special stages over a total racing distance of 179km throubh Friday and Saturday in 1hr55min55. Second were arch-rivals and current championship leaders Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Yaris), 1min30 in arrears. Between them the two top contenders for the championship title that Cronje/Houghton have claimed for the past two years won 14 stages with Cronje victorious in 10 and Poulter in 4.BACK ON TRACKThe Toyota pair increased their championship lead to 15.5 points after accumulating 78 from wins in each of the first two rounds, seventh in the PMC Rally and now second in the Eastern Cape. Cronje/Houghton scored only 6.5 points in the first two rounds, but have their title challenge back on track with another 50 points for the back-to-back wins.Third four-wheel drive S2000 car home in Port Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon was the first of the four VW factory Polos entered for the manufacturer’s home event and driven by the Dutch/Belgian duo of Hans Weijs jnr/Bjorn Degandt.A consistent performance saw them convert third place behind Cronje/Poulter on Friday to the final step of the podium on Saturday, 3min28 behind the winners. They now move up to second in the championship with 62.5 points. Team mates and former S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin made it two VWs in the top four with a troubled but gutsy drive that saw them overcome power steering-problems on Friday and then a burst power steering pipe and a small fire (quickly extinguished by marshals) on Saturday’s opening stage which forced them to complete four stages without power steering. They finished a distant 12min55 in arrears. These were the only four out of 10 S2000 cars and a single S2000 Challenge entry to complete the full route and score full championship points on an incident-filled event held in cool, cloudy and windy conditions.Fifth overall was the Toyota Yaris of 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers/Greg Godrich who withdrew with engine problems on Stage 13 while lying an impressive third – which would have equalled their best result of third in the 2013 VW Rally - and were awarded half-points under the Super Rally rules.They had been fourth at the overnight stop in Port Elizabeth on Friday. Similarly, Henk Lategan/Barry White (Polo) were awarded half-points for sixth despite dropping out after going off the road on Stage 13 while fifth. They had been fifth overnight after delays caused by power steering problems and a broken drive shaft.SPECIAL APPEARANCENamibian Wilro Dippenaar and South African co-driver Kes Naidoo in the lone S2000 Challenge PZN Panelbeaters/Castrol Toyota Auris were classified seventh under Super Rally rules after completing only two of Saturday’s eight stages.There were four non-finishers. Hergen Fekken/Carolyn Swan in the second factory Yaris slipped from joint second in the championship standings to third (with 57 points) after electrical/engine problems forced them out on Friday’s opening stage. Austrian rally champion Raimund Baumschlager and German co-driver Klaus Wicha, making a guest appearance in a factory Polo, retired with gearbox problems after completing Friday’s opening stage sixth.Japie van Niekerk/Gerhard Snyman (Fiesta) only managed three stages on Day 1 before the radiator was holed by a stone and the engine overheated. They had been right on the pace and were third after the first two stages. It was decided not to risk further damage to the engine by tackling Saturday’s stages. Namibian Thilo Himmel and South African co-driver Armand du Toit (Polo) went off the road on Stage 4 and were also unable to continue.The next round of the championship will be the Cullinan Rally over August 15/16.