THREE TIMES A WINNER: Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) won an incident-filled inaugural 2015 Secunda Rally on May 16 to score a hat trick in the 2015 SA Rally championship Image: Brian Smith
SECUNDA, Mpumalanga - Another dominant performance by the Ford Performance team of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton gave them their third consecutive win in the 2015 National Rally championship.
They won the inaugural Secunda rally in a Ford Fiesta S2000, leading from start to finish and winning the first five stages – after which they clipped a fence, lost the Fiesta’s roof vent and rear wing and collected a slow puncture.
'SLIPPERY MORNING RIDE'
An elated Cronje said afterwards: “We struggled with dust in the car with the vent missing but the team did well to fix it so we could cruise to victory. It was quite slippery out there during the morning – we were first on the road so that made it difficult but we kept it clean and it paid off.”
It didn’t work out so well for Henk Lategan and Barry White (VW Polo). At the restart they were 26.9sec behind the leading Ford but quickly made up more than 10sec in the opening stages.
Their charge ended when they clipped a gatepost five kilometres into Stage 9 and broke the right rear wheel off the Polo.
Their retirement moved Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan (Toyota Yaris) into second but they were under pressure from Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries in their return debut for the VW team.
Fekken/Arries slowly closed the gap on De Villiers but on Stage 9 a broken wheel scuppered their chance of a good result so team mates Gugu Zulu/Hilton Affray, who lost 30sec to a time penalty when the gearbox on their car was changed, were now up to third.
Meanwhile reigning champions Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee (Yaris), on a charge after a disastrous previous day, were winning stage after stage… with Lategan/Fekken out they inherited fourth.
At the finish at the Lake Umuzi waterfront in Secunda De Villiers/Swan were 51.4sec behind the winners, with Zulu/Auffray, in their first outing together, second but another 32sec back, with Poulter/Coetzee a distant fourth.
They were followed by Thilo Himmel/Armand du Toit (Polo) who had problems with a misfiring engine.
S1600 CLASS RESULT
Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios) delivered an impressive performance in the S1600 class – winning the class in style more than a minute ahead of their closest rival, and finishing a sixth overall.
Richard Leeke jnr/Rikus Fourie (Ford Fiesta R2), fourth in class at the overnight stop, capitalised on Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz’ (Polo) problems Ashley Haigh-Smith/Damian van As (Fiesta R2) experienced.
Van Beurden retired with a blown engine in Stage 8 while Haigh-Smith did the same as a precautionary measure before Stage 9 since his Fiesta’s engine had a serious misfire.
Third in class and eighth overall were Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk Van Heerden (Etios) after a steady run; Andrew Heine/Robbie Coetzee (Polo) retired with a broken shock-absorber after Stage 8 and AC Potgieter/Tommy du Toit (Polo) went out on Stage 11.
Marko Himmel/ Francois Schoombee (Polo R2), who competed under SupeRally rules, showed some good sportsmanship by stopping in Stage 7 to help Nico Higgs/Etienne Lourens their burning Polo caught fire (they later retired).
The only classified NRC4 team at the end of 12 gruelling stages was that of Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt (Toyota Auris) and the winners of the NRC2 challenge were Jaco and George Baker (Toyota Tazz).
• The next round of the 2015 South African Rally championship, the Bela-Bela Rally, will be run over June 19/20 June in the Bela-Bela area in Limpopo province.
SECUNDA CLASS WIN FOR TOYOTA: Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios) delivered an impressive performance in the S1600 class – winning the class in style more than a minute ahead of their closest rival. Image: Brian Smith