VW the hot spring in Bela Bela

The Star Early Edition - - MOTORSPORT - MO­TOR­SPORT COR­RE­SPON­DENT

THE fi­nal round of the SA Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship de­liv­ered on all the ex­cite­ment that we have come to ex­pect from a sea­son which con­sisted of top-class ral­ly­ing and, for the most part, tightly-fought bat­tles.

Newly-crowned cham­pi­ons Leeroy Poul­ter and Elvéne Coet­zee (Cas­trol Team Toy­ota Yaris) re­tired on stage seven of the 10-stage Bela Bela Rally with en­gine prob­lems last week­end, while en­joy­ing a com­fort­able 17-sec­ond lead over Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn De­gandt (VW Sa­sol­rac­ing Polo).

The vis­it­ing Dutch/Bel­gian duo went on to give VW its first na­tional cham­pi­onship win of the year (and its first since the same crew won the sea­son-end­ing Gar­den Route Rally in Novem­ber 2012). A fault­less run saw the Euro­peans oc­cupy sec­ond place through­out the two-day event, mak­ing the most of Poul­ter's mis­for­tune.

Sec­ond, 22.5 seconds in ar­rears after 176km of gravel spe­cial stage rac­ing were out­go­ing cham­pi­ons Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fi­esta), who over­came a punc­ture on Satur­day's stage eight where they lost 20 seconds to fin­ish be­hind the win­ning VW. Third was the sec­ond Cas­trol Team Toy­ota Yaris of Her­gen Fekken and Carolyn Swan, who won three of Satur­day's six stages and were 36.5 seconds be­hind the win­ner at the fin­ish in Bela-Bela.

Among the no­table ca­su­al­ties (in ad­di­tion to Poul­ter) were Giniel de Vil­liers and Greg Go­drich (Im­pe­rial Toy­ota Yaris), who suf­fered a bro­ken gear­lever be­tween stages six and seven on Satur­day. Namib­ian Thilo Him­mel and South African co-driver Ar­mand du Toit were also forced to re­tire their VW Polo with a bro­ken prop­shaft on stage eight.

Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (Man­i­tou Group VW Polo) scored their first win of the sea­son in the two-wheel drive S1600 class after two suc­ces­sive run­ner-up fin­ishes in the last two rounds. Sec­ond in this class were Ernie van der Walt and new co-driver Rowan Rob­bertse (Ferodo Ford Fi­esta), 27.6sec be­hind the win­ners and 2.4 sec ahead of third-placed An­drew Heine and Rob­bie Coet­zee (VW Polo).

Newly-crowned cham­pi­ons Guy Bot­ter­ill and Si­mon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toy­ota Etios R2) were clas­si­fied sixth un­der Su­per Rally rules after a leak­ing fuel tank on Fri­day forced them out of that day's pro­ceed­ings. They won four of the six stages on Satur­day.

Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn De­gandt ruled the roost at the Bela Bela rally.

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