Citizen Reporter
2 minute read
7 Oct 2015
5:00 pm

SA rally drivers battle it out

Citizen Reporter

Ford Performance driver Mark Cronje is well set to take his third drivers' title in the South African Rally Championship, which finishes with the Polokwane Rally next weekend.

PODIUM PLACE. Sasol Volkswagen Polo driver Gugu Zule currently occupies third place in this year's South African Rally championship. Picture: Dave Ledbitter

With the one event remaining, Cronje leads the championship in his Ford Performance Fiesta S2000, nine points clear of reigning drivers’ champion Leeroy Poulter (Team Castrol Toyota Yaris). This means even if Poulter wins in Polokwane, the 2012 and 2013 champion only needs to finish third overall or higher to clinch this year’s title.

While the Ford Performance team’s decision to replace Robin Houghton, Cronje’s long-standing navigator, with Gerhard Snyman paid handsome dividends in the Cape, it has negated any chance of winning the navigators’ championship as well.

Houghton – on 72 points even without participating in the penultimate round – is still in a position to challenge for the co-drivers’ title, but will in all probability not complete the final round. This means Elvéne Coetzee – Poulter’s navigator in the Castrol Toyota team – is for all intents and purposes the winner of the 2015 navigators’ championship.

Finishing runner-up in the recent Toyota Cape Dealer Rally has elevated Sasol Volkswagen Polo driver Gugu Zulu to third position in the drivers’ championship. He now leads Castrol Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers by 3.5 points, and while they cannot challenge the two frontrunners, a major tussle between them can be expected in the final event in their quest to secure third place in the championship.

Fifth overall in the drivers’ championship on 31 points is Henk Lategan, of the Sasol Volkswagen team, with his highly experienced team-mate Hergen Fekken, after only competing in five events, a mere five points adrift on 26.

Pierre Arries, who navigated for Zulu before moving over to partner Fekken, is currently fourth in the navigators’ championship on 40 points, while Hilton Auffray, who took over the hot seat next to Zulu, is only a single point behind him.

With one event remaining, Japie van Niekerk (NAD Ford Fiesta), after two non-finishes and not participating in the last rally, is still seventh on the log with 23 points, while Gerhard Snyman – his regular co-driver – is now sixth in the navigators’ championship on 32 points – one point ahead of Barry White, navigator for Lategan.

The KwaZulu-Natal pairing of Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2) enjoy a sizeable lead in the S1600 class. The pair – on 75 points after four wins – are now 11 points clear of team-mates Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Toyota Etios R2).

Botterill and Vacy-Lyle now only need a sixth place finish in the final event to put the seal on their second national title. Capetonians Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (Manitou Volkswagen Polo R2) are only 7.5 points behind the Fragram Tools Toyota crew, so expect a good scrap in Polokwane.

Fourth on the log is Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz (Jem Sport Ford Fiesta R2), still on 45 points after missing the Cape round, while Richard Leeke Jnr/Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fiesta R2) is fifth on 37 points.