SA's 2011 rally champs crowned

2011-10-24 10:31

It's been an outstanding weekend for motorsport as Team Sasol’s Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton clinched the 2011 SA Rally Championship.

The pairs has also (unofficially) clinched the 2011 South African Driver’s and Co-Driver’s Rally Championships during a fierce battle in Polokwane.

The weekend saw Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Auris) race to victory during the inaugural Polokwane Rally and final round of the SA Rally Championship.

Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) placed second just 2.7 seconds behind after 16 special stages. Despite not winning the race they have unofficially secured the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships.

In a weekend of high drama, the Fiesta S2000 pair started badly suffering an early puncture during stage tow and losing 24 seconds to the race leaders.

Cronje said: “I had memories of Cape Town and wanted to cry."


Houghton added: "We came out of the stage and saw Conrad (Rautenbach – their main rivals) changing a tyre and realised we had been thrown a life line.”

Former national champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo) were third overall who led Cronje and Houghton at the start of the final stage but were overtaken by the Ford and finished 2.8 seconds behind.

Poulter and Coetzee, who took Toyota’s all-time national championship rally win tally to 101, led throughout the day after finishing first at the end of Friday’s nine stages. Their victory did not come easily as Poulter, competing in the top class of national championship rallying for the first time, lost time on Sunday when he sportingly used a part from his car to fix a power steering problem on team mate Johnny Gemmell’s car.

This saw him drop 30 seconds to his pursuers on the next stage as he struggled to handle the Toyota over the tightest stage of the day. He was slowed down even further following a broken shaft.

Conrad Rautenbach (Ford Fiesta) started the event as provisional championship leader and needed to beat Cronje to win his first South African title.  In the end he and co-driver Nicolas Klinger finished fourth overall, 26 seconds behind the winners.

There is still an unresolved protest regarding the results of the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally which could affect the outcome of the championship.

Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee

SECOND PLACE: Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee power their Toyota Auris to win the inaugural Polokwane Rally.

Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey, driving the second Fiesta S2000 ended 10th overall. During stage two, Williams cut a kink a little too closely and clipped a concrete block holding up a gatepost.

Williams said: “It was a right/left chicane with a pole in the grass and the pole was bedded in concrete which the previous guys had gradually exposed. It hooked a wheel and spun me around 180 degrees in mid-air. The driveshaft broke and I had to crawl out of the stage.”

The Two Wheel Drive Championship for Super 1600 and Super 1400 classes saw a battle royal between the Volkswagen Polo of Henk Lategan and Barry White and the three Super 1600 cars of Christoff Snyders and sister Celeste (VW Polo), Guy Botterill/Schalk van Heerden (Toyota RunX) and Craig Trott/Robbie Coetzee (Toyota RunX).

Lategan prevailed to take the two-wheel drive category by 17.5 seconds from the Snyder siblings and finished 12th overall. The top three teams were separated by less than half a minute, with Botterill finishing third - 1min 33seconds ahead of former champion Trott.

The Snyders eventually took the unofficial championship honours ahead of Trott/Coetzee.

Second in the Super 1400 class were Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray (BP Volkswagen Polo), in 17th place overall and 6 min 35 sec behind Lategan.