GOOD LUCK THIS TIME: Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Greg Godrich won their first National championship rally on Saturday at the Cape Dealer Rally. Image: Marc Bow
CAPE TOWN - Giniel de Villiers, a former National Cross-Country champion and winner of the Dakar Rally in 2009, has with co-driver Greg Godrich won his first SA National championship rally.
They were overall winners and also first in the S2000 class for four-wheel drive two-litre cars - in their case a Toyota Yaris.
Second, eight seconds back after 12 special stages and 174km of mostly gravel-road racing, were Toyota Motorsport team mates Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Yaris). Twice National champion Enzo Kuun/Gerhard Snyman (Ford Fiesta) filled the final spot on the podium.
The victory did not come easily. De Villiers/Godrich were fourth overall, 42sec behind leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) at the overnight stop in Brackenfell, near Cape Town at the end of the first day of Round 6 of the eight-event South Africa Rally National Championship.
More than 20sec separated them from second-placed team mates and current championship leaders Poulter/Coetzee (Toyota Yaris) and just three seconds was the gap to twice champion Kuun/Snyman (Fiesta).
Saturday’s route consisted of seven gravel special stages on tight and twisty farm roads in the Durbanville, Malmesbury and Moorreesburg areas. Rain had resulted in muddy and slippery surfaces and standing water along the route, which took its toll.
De Villiers was up to third behind Cronje and Poulter after the morning’s opening special Stage 6 but then experienced an exploded shock-absorber and had to complete two-and-a-half stages without it over bumpy roads. He recovered well to climb back to fourth behind Poulter, team mate Hergen Fekken/Carolyn Swan (Toyota Yaris), who had improved their overnight position of seventh to second, and Kuun after special Stage 9.
Poulter had taken over the lead on Stage 7 after Cronje lost nearly three minutes with a puncture. The defending champion had extended his overnight lead to more than half a minute with a win in the opening stage of the day to add to the three he accumulated on Friday. He pushed hard to make up time, winning stage nine after experiencing another puncture on the previous stage, but had to settle for sixth at the finish, 1min30sec in arrears.
BAD LUCK STRIKES
Then Poulter broke a shock-absorber on Stage 9 while enjoying a 4sec lead over Fekken and had to complete one-and-a-half stages without it. That allowed De Villiers to close to within a second of Poulter on the penultimate stage after overtaking Kuun on Stage 10.
In an exciting finish to another excellent Cape rally that offered all the drama and high speed of special-stage rallying on loose gravel, De Villiers/Godrich were rewarded for their best performance yet, winning the final two stages. They have had more than their fair share of bad luck; now it was the turn of the two main championship rivals, Cronje and Poulter, to bite the bullet.
Poulter/Coetzee retain their championship lead and now enjoy a 29-point advantage over team mates Fekken/Swan with two rounds remaining. Cronje/Houghton are third, 36.5 behind the leaders and 7.5 behind Fekken/Swan.
• Hans Weijs Jnr of Holland and Bjorn Degandt of Belgium were first of the factory Volkswagen Polos to finish, coming home fifth, 1min12 off the pace.
Namibian Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (Polo) were seventh under Super Rally rules after breaking their suspension on Stage 9.
• Eighth were Piet Bakkes/Shaun Visser (Toyota RunX) after experiencing engine problems on Stage 10 and they were followed by...
• Henk Lategan/Barry White, who also finished under Super Rally rules after hitting a post on Stage 8.
• Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (VW Polo) finished 10th under Super Rally rules after they broke their suspension on Stage 6.
Bakkes and Visser were the only finishers in the S2000 Challenge for older all-wheel drive cars.
Namibia’s Wilro Dippenaar/Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris) didn’t make it past Stage 1 on Friday and were non-finishers.
The next round of the championship will be the Polokwane rally in Limpopo over October 17/18.