VW RALLY - RACED UNDER A HELLUVA CLOUD: The podium after the rain-drenched 2015 Volkswagen Rally outside Port Elizabeth. Image: Videosport
PORT ELIZABETH, Eastern Province - Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee, defending SA National champions in a Toyota Yaris, overcame extreme weather and treacherous roads to slip-slide their way to victory in the 2015 Volkswagen Rally.
They finished a rally so waterlogged that it was shortened from 12 to 10 stages in 2hr10min06.5 to beat Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) by 27.2sec after two days of tough driving in the countryside near Port Elizabeth.
CLASS OF THEIR OWN
This victory, right after winning the Bela-Bela rally a month earlier, strengthened their grip in the championship by cutting their points deficit to log leaders Cronje and Houghton by another four points.
Poulter and Cronje were in a class of their own in the perilous conditions, torrential rain turning the already muddy roads into quagmires, and won all but one of the special stages – penultimate Stage 9 belonged to Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan (another Yaris)..
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With third on the podium secure, the pair slacked their relentless pace in the final stage – crossing the finishing line at the Port Elizabeth Oval Track 2min13.9 behind Cronje/Houghton.
Poulter said later: “It was very difficult out there - conditions were really bad. In some places the car aquaplaned and then suddenly found grip, throwing you completely off-line… I’m just happy we could keep it together and win.”
PRIVATE DICE DOWNFIELDFord Fiesta crew Japie van Niekerk/Gerhard van Snyman were fourth after a well-paced but sensible drive and finished well clear of the three VW Polos chasing them – of which Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries were closest but more than a minute behind Van Niekerk/Snyman after a very frustrating event in which they just could not find a rhythm.
Behind them the crews Gugu Zulu/Hilton Auffray and Henk Lategan/Barry White each had misfortunes on Friday but had their own little dice.
Lategan, relishing the monsoon, went on a late charge, passing Zulu/Auffray in the final stage to finish sixth overall – 28.4sec clear of their team mates.
The S2000 teams had difficulty coming to terms with the road conditions but the roads were downright terrifying for the S1600 competitors. With only two-wheel drive and less power they had a torrid time trying to negotiate the route while not drowning their engines.
LAST OF A WATERLOGGED CLASS
Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (Polo), leading the class overnight after the demise of early leaders Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios) and Richard Leeke jnr/Rikus Fourie (Fiesta) stayed out of trouble and won the class.
They finished more than a minute clear of Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Toyota Etios) – the only other team in the class to see the chequered flag.
The conditions were not so kind to Tjaart Conradie and Tiaan Rabe (Polo). Lying third in class after the eventful first day, their car came to a halt in Stage 8 with a drowned engine. Though still classified as finishers, they lost position to Leeke/Fourie and Marko Himmel/Gert Nienaber (Polo), classified third and fourth position under Super Rally rules.
Botterill/Vacy-Lyle, also competing under Super Rally rules, had to withdraw again, this time with a blown engine, in Stage 8 while Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz (Fiesta R2) were classified sixth in class, also under Super Rally rules.
THREE IN A LINE FOR VW
Piet Bakkes/Shaun Visser (Toyota Auris) was the only team to finish in the NRC4 class; Tjaart Coetzee/Anza Muller (Polo) won the new Cup category.
The three factory-backed VW crews finished fifth, sixth and seventh in S2000, a Polo crew won S1600; and a Polo was first in the Cup category to give VW the Manufacturer’s title for the rally.
Round 6 of the SA National Rally championship, the Cullinan, is scheduled for August 14/15 in Gauteng.