SA Rally whips up surprises

2012-08-20 08:28

The two top crews battled for dominance in the fifth round of the national rally championship, the Rally South Africa run in kwaZulu-Natal this weekend, but favourites Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton comfprtably took the lead.

Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) took the championship lead on Saturday, August 18, 2012 after winning the two-day Rally South Africa with 24 seconds to spare from previous leaders Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan in their Toyota Auris.


Cronje/Houghton led Gemmell/Swan by 13 seconds after the first day, which consisted of two gravel special stages in the Valley of 1000 Hills – a third stage was cancelled – and a tarmac Super Special to end the day on the site of the old Durban drive-in.  Cronje and Houghton won the opening and closing stages.

Day two saw the rally move to the Mondi forests and private sugar cane fields in the Richmond area and Cronje/Houghton extended their advantage over Gemmell/Swan to 32 seconds after winning the first three of the day’s five stages.  Gemmell and Swan pulled back 10 seconds on the penultimate stage in a final effort to close the gap to the Ford, but Cronje stepped on the gas again to win the Durban Super Special that ended the rally.

Third and fourth places overall went to multiple former champions Jan Habig/Robert Paisley (Ford Fiesta) and Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson (Volkswagen Polo), who were both more than a minute behind. Habig/Paisley recovered from eighth on day one, slowed by problems with the suspension set-up of their Ford, to carve their way through the field and overtook Kuun/Hodgson, who had started the day in third place, on stage seven when the VW pair overshot a turn.

Giniel de Villiers/Celeste Snyders (Toyota Auris) successfully completed their first event together in De Villiers’ second outing in the third Toyota Motorsport entry. They improved their overnight standing of 12th following a broken drive shaft and an engine misfire on Friday to finish fifth. Not so fortunate were team mates Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee in the second Castrol Toyota, who crashed out of the event on stage two on Friday while lying second, rolling the Toyota several times down a hillside.

S2000 CHALLENGE, S1600

Hein Lategan/Johan van der Merwe (Peugeot 207) finished sixth while Wilro Dippenaar/Morne du Toit (Toyota RunX) won the S2000 Challenge category for the older specification four-wheel-drive cars and placed seventh overall. Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (VW Polo) finished eight minutes later in the only other remaining S2000 Challenge entry.  

Charl Wilken/Etienne Lourens (Ford Fiesta) were eighth after battling power steering problems on Friday and stopping to change a flat wheel on Saturday’s stage six.  Ninth were Sebastiaan Klaassen and Cindi Harding (Ford Fiesta) and rounding out the top 10 was the leading S1600 two-wheel-drive Citroen C2 of Clint Weston and Herman Groenewald.  

It was Weston and Citroen’s first S1600 win, fought in close battle with Tjaart Conradie/Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris) and Ashley Haigh Smith/Patrick Vermaak, who finished second and third respectively in the category and 11th and 12th overall.  

Notable S2000 casualties in what was a technically challenging event with slippery gravel roads included the Dutch/Belgian combination of Hans Weijs Jnr/Bjorn Degandt (VW Polo) who suffered engine failure en route to Saturday’s first stage start and Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Grant Martin (Toyota Auris) who rolled out of contention on the same stage as the Poulter/Coetzee Toyota on Friday.  

In S1600 Nic van der Westhuizen/Henry Dearlove rolled their Ford Fiesta on Saturday’s stage six while lying fifth.  

The fifth round of the national rally championship was also a candidate event for the World Rally Championship in 2014. The next round is the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally from September 13 to 15, 2012.