Volkswagen Rally proves adage about sponsors and races
HEAVY downpours led to the cancellation of the final two of the 12 stages in Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth last weekend and made it extra hard for the racers.
Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee topped the podium, with teammates Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan in third place and Ford’s Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in the middle.
“We started out pushing quite hard today but realized quite quickly that we were better off bringing the Fiesta home in one piece and being satisfied with second,” Cronje said.
“This is obviously not the result we were hoping for but under the circumstances, we’re happy with the points we get for a second place,” co-driver Houghton added. “We’re still leading the championship and will regroup before the next event to make sure we try to wrap it up as quickly as possible since there are only three races left in the season.”
In the Toyota camp, an exuberant Glyn Hall, team principal of Castrol Team Toyota, was beaming after the event. “Of all the rallies in the season, this is the one the drivers want to win most of all. The Longmore Forest stages have a reputation as the toughest on the rally calendar, and Leeroy showed his mettle by winning the longest of them despite the heavy rains that had soaked the stage.”
Day one of the 2015 VW Rally saw Poulter/Coetzee open a handy lead of 35.8 seconds over second-place crew and current championship leaders, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta), after six stages. Day two dawned grey and rainy, and it quickly became clear that the remainder of the event would be run in extremely testing conditions. As the heavens opened over the Eastern Cape, Poulter managed to control his lead at the head of the field, holding off a hard-charging Cronje in the final forest stage of the event.
With six stages scheduled for the second day’s racing, it looked as if the fans would see some fantastics racing between Ford and Toyota at the Port Elizabeth Oval Track, but this is when the clouds opened, completely soaking the super special stages and bringing the 2015 Volkswagen Rally to a premature end.
For Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan, in the second Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000, the Volkswagen Rally offered an opportunity to move into third place in the championship, and that is exactly what they did by finishing third overall in the event, three spots ahead of their nearest championship rivals, Gugu Zulu and Hilton Auffray (Volkswagen Polo), who in Zulu’s word suffered a major moment in stage one.
Zulu’s teammates Henk Lategan and Barry White posted good stage times during the Volkswagen Rally, posting seven stage times within the top five, ultimately finishing the event in seventh overall.
“We started the rally a little conservatively,” says Lategan. “It was, however the flat wheel and damage we got in stage two that really posed a problem. We hit a rock or something and bent the wheel. We couldn’t get it off to change the tyre. That cost us around five minutes, in just stage two of the rally, and it was very difficult to try and recover from there.”
Head of Volkswagen Motorsport Mike Rowe, “I am proud of the Volkswagen Sasolracing team members for their performance under some really adverse conditions.
“The service crews performed their task well, made sure the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000s were ready to compete throughout the event and displayed good camaraderie in the face of some terrible weather and working conditions, their efforts helping Volkswagen win the Manufacturer’s Award at the Volkswagen Rally.”
“In motorsport there is a saying that you cannot win an event that you sponsor and the Volkswagen Rally seems to prove it. The Volkswagen Sasolracing team rallied hard, but were just not quite able to hold their competition at bay.”
• Round 6 of the 8-round championship is the Cullinan Motor Rally and it promises to be pivotal in the decision of the final outcome of the season. The rally takes place around the mining town of Cullinan in Gauteng on August 14 to 15.
Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetze led a Toyota double to the podium at the Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth.