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SA rally crash narrowly avoids hitting crowds

2015-04-20 12:55

FERDI DE VOS

A R1-MILLION REPAIR BILL: The wrecked remains of Japie van Niekerk's Ford Fiesta following a disastrous collision with VW's Henk Lategan. Image: QuickPic

Ford's Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton claimed their second win in a row at the 2015 Sasol Rally which has ended in Nelspruit.

The pair, driving a Class S2000 Ford Fiesta, continued their winning form from the season-opening Tour Natal Rally by totally dominating the rally, winning 13 of the event’s 15 special stages.

They finished ahead of Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Toyota Yaris S2000), with Gugu Zulu/Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo S2000) in third.

DISASTER AVERTED 

The extremely demanding conditions of Sasol Rally 2015 saw competitors tackle slippery, muddy conditions through 15 stages. From Sabie to White River and on to Nelspruit, there was seldom respite from the challenges which saw teams pushing hard to make the finish.

VIDEO: 2015 Sasol Rally crash

The swift reactions of Ford's Japie van Niekerk averted tragedy and instead of crashing into spectators watching a tarmac stage, he collided with VW's Henk Lategan – who had driven straight into the path of the oncoming Ford Fiesta.

In the video, Lategan spun his Volkswagen and then inexplicably started to drive the wrong way down the stage to continue into Van Niekerk behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta.

'I HAD NOWHERE TO GO'

A shaken Van Niekerk said afterwards: "I had nowhere to go... I just knew I had to avoid going into the crowd.

“I don’t know what Lategan was thinking – it was an act of gross negligence and a horrific accident was narrowly averted. At the point of impact, there was very little of substance to protect spectators and I just tried to steer the car through a gap which was shrinking fast.”

The Ford hit the VW before continuing straight on three wheels, narrowly missing spectators standing less than a metre away.

Van Niekerk said: "I've hurt my neck a bit and my navigator Gordon Noble has a bruised ankle but I’m just relieved that there weren't any bystanders involved – it was an unbelievably lucky escape. Unfortunately, however, the damage to my car is extensive and I estimate that it could exceed a R1-million."

The next event is the Secunda Motor Rally on May 15 and 16.

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