NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WRAPPED: Leeroy Poulter (left) and Elvéne Coetzee end Toyota’s National rally championship drought with a fantastic victory at the Polokwane Rally, in Limpopo. Image: Quickpic
POLOKWANE, Limpopo - Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Yaris) ended Toyota’s National Rally championship drought (dating back to 2004) when they won the 2014 title with victory from the penultimate round, the PolokwaneRally, in Limpopo on October 19.
The rally saw five of the nine competitors in the premier S2000 class for all-wheel drive cars and three of the 11 contenders in the S1600 class for two-wheel drive forced to retire during the opening day.
Poulter/Coetzee were determined to win from the second special stage on Friday (Oct 17), winning six of the 11 special stages, four on Friday and two on Saturday (Oct 18).
NO CATCHING POULTER/COETZEE
The early retirement of defending champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta), who damaged their suspension after hitting a gate post on the second special stage on October 17 after recording the fastest time in the opening one, greatly helped Poulter/Coetzee’s cause.
Visiting Dutch driver Hans Weijs jnr (VW Polo), fourth in the points ahead of the Polokwane Rally, Cronje/Houghton, third in the standings, and Poulter/Coetzee’s team mates, Hergen Fekken/Carolyn Swan, second in the standings, had a realistic chance of overhauling them in the two remaining rounds.
As it turned out, only Weijs, without regular Belgian co-driver Bjorn Degandt (whose father is unwell) who was replaced by countryman Hans van Goor, was able to complete all 11 special stages and finished second overall, his best result of 2014, two minutes down.
Fekken/Swan’s challenge was over when they lost 10 minutes in Special Stage 7 after completing day one in second place, 30sec behind their team mates. They retired on Stage 10 with an alternator problem but were classified as finishing sixth under Super Rally rules and scored half-points to put them third in the championship behind Weijs but out of titlt contention.
LOTS OF RETIREMENTS
Hein Lategan/Barry White (Polo) started the event with the slimmest of mathematical chances of catching Poulter/Coetzee. They retired after Stage 9 and were not classified as finishers after starting Day 2 under Super Rally rules after their withdrawal on Friday (Oct 17) with engine problems on Stage 2.
Third overall and first (and only) finisher in the S2000 Challenge (for older spec all-wheel drive cars) were Namibia’s Wilro Dippenaar and South African co-driver Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris). They improved from fifth at the overnight stop in Polokwane on Friday (Oct 17) to record their best result of 2014, 2min20 behind the winners.
Fourth were former S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (Polo), 2min30 behind. Giniel de Villiers, winner of Round 6 in the Western Cape with Greg Godrich in a Toyota Yaris, was out of luck with co-driver Pierre Arries standing in for an ill Godrich. Electrical issues forced them out on Friday and they returned on Saturday (Oct 18) under Super Rally rules. They finished fifth and were awarded half-points.
With just one round remaining in November 2014, at a venue still to be decided, and a maximum of 25 points on offer, Poulter/Coetzee have 149 points to the 105.5 of Weijs and the 100.5 of Fekken/Swan.
Sixth overall in the combined S2000/S1600 field and winners of the S1600 two-wheel drive class were Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios R2), who won four of the 11 stages on their way to a 1min32 win over Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (Polo). They've wrapped the championship and cannot be caught in the final round.
Third at the overnight stop and third at the finish were Ernie van der Walt/James Aldridge (Ford Fiesta R2). Fourth were Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk van Heerden (Etios R2), who finished ahead of Andrew Heine/Robbie Coetzee (Polo).
Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz (Polo) who, with 81 championship points to Botterill/Vacy-Lyle’s 130 (a gap of 49 points) had the slimmest chance of denying Botterill/Vacy-Lyle the title. The pair suffered gearbox issues and virtually handed the S1600 title to Botterill/Vacy-Lyle.
CRASHES AND MECHANICAL WOES
Ashley Haigh-Smith/Damian van Ass (Ford Fiesta R2) dropped out of the Super Rally with a broken side-shaft on Stage 7. They hit a tree and damaged their suspension. Chris Coertse/Mari van der Walt (Etios) rolled out of the event on Stage 7 while also competing in the Super Rally after their alternator pulley fell off.
AC Potgieter/Tommy du Toit (VW Polo) were eliminated on Friday (Oct 17) after alternator failure on Stage. They completed the event under Super Rally rules and were classified seventh in S1600.