Andre De Kock
Motorsport Editor
2 minute read
14 Jul 2014
1:00 pm

Rally leaves title race wide open

Andre De Kock

The reigning champions won, the aspiring champions scored valuable points, and the season's title chase was left wide open.

TRUE BLUE. Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton took their Dealer Ford Fiesta S2000 to overall victory in the weekend's Volkswagen Rally. Pictures: Dave Ledbitter

That is how enthusiasts will remember the weekend’s Volkswagen Rally through the Eastern Cape.

The event – round four of this year’s South African championship – was won overall by Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in their Dealer Team Ford Fiesta.

They finished a minute and a half ahead of Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee (Castrol Toyota Yaris), with the two crews winning all of the rally’s 14 special stages between them. Cronje/Houghton won 10, while Poulter/Coetzee clinched the remaining four.

Third overall, a minute further adrift, were Hans Weiss/Bjorn Degant (Sasol Volkswagen Polo).

They led home the similar car of Gugu Zulu/Charl Peskin, who were the final crew to complete the entire route.

Retirements came thick and fast, starting with the works Castrol Toyota Yaris of Hergen Fekken/Carolyn Swan, which blew its engine early during Friday’s first stage.

The stage also claimed Austrian rally champion Raimund Baumschlager/Klaus Wicha, making a guest appearance in a factory Sasol VW Polo. They retired with gearbox problems.

Japie van Niekerk/Gerhard Snyman (New Africa Ford Fiesta) only managed to complete three stages on day one before the radiator was holed by a stone and the engine overheated.

They retired, as did Thilo Himmel/Armand du Toit (Investec VW Polo), when they went off the road in stage four.

On Saturday, the Imperial Toyota Yaris of Dakar Rally hero Giniel de Villiers/Greg Godrich dropped a valve and stopped while they were lying third overall.

Soon afterwards Henk Lategan and Barry White (Sasol VW Polo) fell off the road in the penultimate stage, while Wilro Dippenaar/Kes Naidoo stopped with electrical malfunctions in their S2000 Challenge PZN Panelbeaters Castrol Toyota Auris.

In Class S1600, for two-wheel drive cars, championship leaders Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios) scored their fourth consecutive victory.

They had to work hard, chased all the way by the second-placed Chad van Beurden and Nico Swartz (Beurden Construction VW Polo R2).

Botteril won 10 stages, and Van Beurden four.

Third were Ernie van der Walt/ James Aldridge (Ferodo Ford Fiesta R2), leading home AC Potgieter/Tommy du Toit (VW Polo), Andrew Heine/Robbie Coetzee (VW Polo), plus Chris Coertse and the 16-year-old Mari van der Walt (Electrothread Toyota Etios R2), who were the last of the 10 S1600 entries to complete the full event.

The next round of the championship will be the Cullinan Rally on August 15 and 16.