Ford team make it three in a row and look to cook in Bela-Bela

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

AN­OTHER dom­i­nant per­for­mance by the Ford Per­for­mance team of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton saw the pair chalk­ing up their third con­sec­u­tive victory in the 2015 na­tional rally cham­pi­onship by win­ning the in­au­gu­ral Se­cunda Mo­tor Rally in their Ford Fi­esta S2000.

They led from start to fin­ish, win­ning the first five stages of the rally on the trot, and but for a slow punc­ture in stage nine af­ter they clipped a fence and lost the Fi­esta’s roof vent and rear wing, it was plain sail­ing for the Ford crew. Cronje said af­ter­wards: “It was quite slip­pery out there this morn­ing, which made it dif­fi­cult for us as we were first on the road, but we kept it clean and it paid off.”

For Henk Late­gan and Barry White (Volk­swa­gen Sa­solrac­ing Polo) it didn’t work out so well.

At the restart they were 26.9 sec­onds be­hind the Ford pair and quickly made up over 10 sec­onds in the open­ing stages, but their charge was ended when they clipped a gate post 5 km into stage nine which broke the right rear wheel of the Polo.

With their re­tire­ment Giniel de Vil­liers/Carolyn Swan (Cas­trol Team Toy­ota Yaris) moved up into sec­ond place, but were un­der pres­sure from Her­gen Fekken and Pierre Ar­ries in their re­turn de­but for the Volk­swa­gen Sa­solrac­ing team.

Fekken/Ar­ries slowly closed the gap on the Dakar cham­pion, but in stage nine a bro­ken wheel scup­pered their chances of a good re­sult, while team-mates Gugu Zulu/Hil­ton Af­fray, who lost 30 sec­onds due to a time penalty when the gear­box on their car was changed, were now up to third — their podium to­gether, with Poul­ter/Coet­zee a dis­tant fourth.

In the S1600 class Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toy­ota Etios S1600) de­liv­ered an im­pres­sive per­for­mance — win­ning the class in style, more than a minute ahead of their clos­est op­po­nent, and fin­ish­ing a fine sixth over­all.

Richard Leeke Jr and Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fi­esta R2), ly­ing fourth in class at the overnight stop, cap­i­talised on the prob­lems Chad van Beur­den/Nico Swartz (Beur­den Trans­port VW Polo) and Ash­ley HaighSmith/ Damian van As (Cas­trol Ford Fi­esta R2) ex­pe­ri­enced.

Van Beur­den re­tired with a blown en­gine in stage eight, while Haigh-Smith did the same as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure be­fore stage nine since the en­gine of his Fi­esta was mis­fir­ing badly.

Third in class and eighth over­all was Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk Van Heer­den (Fra­gram Toy­ota Etios) af­ter a steady run, while An­drew Heine/Rob­bie Coet­zee (VW Polo) re­tired with a bro­ken shock af­ter stage eight and AC Pot­gi­eter/Tommy du Toit (RickyB Trans­port and Plant Hire VW Polo) went out on stage 11.

Marko Him­mel/ Fran­cois Schoombee (VW Polo R2), who com­peted un­der Su­peRally rules to­day, showed some good sports­man­ship by stop­ping in stage seven to as­sist Nico Higgs/Eti­enne Lourens af­ter their VW Polo caught fire — lead­ing to their re­tire­ment.

The only clas­si­fied NRC4 team at the end of 12 gru­elling stages were The­uns Jou­bert and Mari van der Walt (Toy­ota Auris) and the win­ners of the NRC2 chal­lenge was Jaco and Ge­orge Baker in their Toy­ota Tazz. • The next round of the 2015 South African rally cham­pi­onship, the Bela-Bela Rally, will take place on June 19 and 20 in and around Bela-Bela area in Lim­popo prov­ince. — SA Rally.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

Ford Per­for­mance team driver Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton on their way to a third con­sec­u­tive win in the 2015 na­tional rally champs at Se­cunda last week­end.

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