It’s the Yaris vs the Fi­esta

Ex­pect an epic battle when the na­tional rally champs starts with the Tour Natal at Scot­tburgh

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

IF the sugar cane fields around Scot­tburgh were a gi­ant boxing ring, the one cor­ner has the rallyspec Toy­ota Yaris, while the other cor­ner has the all-wheel drive Ford Fi­esta.

Th­ese two brands are the favourites in the na­tional rally cham­pi­onships, which starts to­mor­row with the Tour Natal, again based at Scot­tburgh.

The ex­cit­ing cham­pi­onship pit the crews against each other in eight flat-out races across SA through to mid Oc­to­ber, when the last leg of the rally takes place in Polok­wane.

Be­hind the wheel of the S2000 four-wheel drive Fi­esta are dou­ble na­tional cham­pi­ons Mark Cronje and co-driver Robin Houghton.

The pair has es­tab­lished them­selves as the team to beat in re­cent years, hav­ing claimed con­sec­u­tive S2000 ti­tles in 2012 and 2013. Although their chal- for a third ti­tle was dogged by bad luck last year, they were con­sis­tently fast and are keen to re­claim “their” ti­tle.

Houghton said the team will start off their sea­son on the Tour Natal with the same spec ve­hi­cle they used last year, but they will have the ben­e­fit of the lat­est spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the Sa­sol Rally in April. “We sent one of our Fi­esta body shells back to M-Sport in the UK at the end of last year, and it is cur­rently be­ing up­dated to the lat­est level. This will en­sure we have the new up­grades for the rest of the sea­son as we fight for cham­pi­onship glory.

“We have the best car out there and know that we will be right at the front chal­leng­ing for stage wins and over­all vic­to­ries,” said Mark Cronje.

“It is fan­tas­tic hav­ing the back­ing and sup­port of Ford Per­for­mance and Ford South Africa, and we hope to add even more sil­ver­ware to the tro­phy cabi­net through­out the sea­son.”

Ford Mo­tor­sport manager John Nagel said this year sees Ford’s strong­est as­sault yet on the re­spec­tive ti­tles. “We have ev­ery con­fi­dence that the crews will be chal­leng­ing for victory in ev­ery round and do­ing Ford and its loyal sup­port­ers proud.”

IN THE CAS­TROL TEAM TOY­OTA COR­NER

Leeroy Poul­ter, who won his first South African Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship in 2014, will again cam­paign the proven Toy­ota Yaris S2000 rally car part­nered with Elvéne Coet­zee, who in 2014 be­came the first fe­male nav­i­ga­tor to win the cham­pi­onship in more than five decades. The pair have now proven their met­tle by win­ning four rounds of the eight-round cham­pi­onship in 2014, backed up by two sec­ond-place fin­ishes.

They will be joined in the sec­ond Yaris by Dakar vet­eran and mul­ti­ple na­tional mo­tor­sport cham­pion Giniel de Vil­liers. Fresh from a stunning sec­ondlenge place fin­ish on this year’s Dakar Rally in South Amer­ica, De Vil­liers will have highly ex­pe­ri­enced nav­i­ga­tor Carolyn Swan along­side him in the Toy­ota Yaris S2000.

Toy­ota South Africa Mo­tors is also proud to be as­so­ci­ated with a num­ber of pri­va­teers, who cam­paign a va­ri­ety of Toy­ota prod­ucts.

The most no­table per­for­mances in 2014 were by Guy Botterill and nav­i­ga­tor Simon Vacy-Lyle in their Toy­ota Etios R2 S1600.

They won six of the eight rounds and had the ti­tle in the bag with a round to spare. Their S1600 Etios is lo­cally de­vel­oped and sup­ported by Yato.

PHOTO: MARC BOW

LEFT: De­fend­ing champs Toy­ota has given its rally-spec Yaris S2000 a new nose to make it look like the Yaris on sale on shopfloor.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

ABOVE: Dou­ble na­tional cham­pi­ons Mark Cronje and co­driver Robin Houghton are keen to take the Yaris down a peg or two.

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