Volk­swa­gen Rally proves adage about spon­sors and races

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - — WR.

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.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

Toy­ota’s Leeroy Poul­ter and El­vene Coetze led a Toy­ota dou­ble to the podium at the Volk­swa­gen Rally in Port El­iz­a­beth.

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