Toy­ota take hon­ours in tough, dusty Tsh­wane run

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORSPORT - CHAR­MAINE FOR­TUNE

TOY­OTA’s lead­ing cham­pi­onship con­tenders se­cured their lead in a tough and dusty Im­pe­rial Toy­ota Tsh­wane Mo­tor Rally around Cul­li­nan last week­end.

It was a fas­ci­nat­ing, ex­cit­ing, yet tough duel be­tween the lead­ings team, but in the end Leeroy Poul­ter and Elvéne Coet­zee (Cas­trol Team Toy­ota Yaris S2000) emerged first from the dust.

The out­come of the rally, the sixth round in the SA Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship, was hang­ing in the bal­ance un­til the penul­ti­mate stage when Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Per­for­mance Fi­esta) fell by the way­side due to steer­ing prob­lems with their Fi­esta.

Up to that point, with two stages to go, the cham­pi­onship lead­ers led their Toy­ota chal­lengers by a mar­gin of only 1,3 sec­onds, and all was set for a nail-bit­ing fi­nale to the dusty rally in and around the town of Cul­li­nan in Tsh­wane. But it was not to be … Af­ter win­ning all four stages the pre­vi­ous day, Cronje and Houghton had a handy lead of 12,7 sec­onds over Poul­ter/ Coet­zee, but in the open­ing stage on Satur­day morn­ing (won by Henk Late­gan/ Barry White in their VW Sa­sol­rac­ing Polo rac­ing un­der Su­per­ally rules) were sec­onds slower than the Toy­ota crew.

Cronje/Houghton duly made up the lost time in the next stage, win­ning it, but then lost 10 sec­onds to Poul­ter and Coet­zee in stage eight, cut­ting their lead down to only 2,3 sec­onds. In the next stage Poul­ter took another 0,4 sec­onds out of their lead, to now trail by only 1.9 sec­onds.

The Ford Per­for­mance pair’s woes in the next stage (they man­aged to fix the steer­ing, los­ing 16 min­utes, and even­tu­ally were clas­si­fied 15th over­all) saw Poul­ter and Coet­zee take their third con­sec­u­tive vic­tory in the se­ries — thereby level-peg­ging their cham­pi­onship chances. It also se­cured a dou­ble podium for the Cas­trol Team Toy­ota with Giniel de Vil­liers and Carolyn Swan fin­ish­ing run­ners-up — just un­der half-a-minute adrift of their team-mates.

How­ever, get­ting lost in the ex­cite­ment of the bat­tle for vic­tory was the mighty tus­sle be­tween De Vil­liers/Swan and the ex­pe­ri­enced Volk­swa­gen Sa­sol­rac­ing crew of Her­gen Fekken and Pierre Ar­ries. The two teams were swop­ping vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal times in the stages, and at the fin­ish the dif­fer­ence be­tween them was only 7,3 sec­onds — while they were split by only 5,6 sec­onds af­ter the first day of the event.

While team-mates Late­gan and White were mak­ing hay un­der Su­per­ally rules, win­ning three spe­cial stages on day two, Gugu Zulu and Hil­ton Auf­fray (VW Sa­sol­rac­ing Polo S2000) drove a steady race to se­cure fourth po­si­tion.

They were fol­lowed by team mates Thilo Him­mel and Ar­mand du Toit, scor­ing a rare race fin­ish in fifth, fol­lowed by Ernie van der Walt/Greg Go­drich ((Vecto Fuel Toy­ota Yaris) in sixth posieight tion, in the process also win­ning the North­ern Cham­pi­onship re­gional rally over­all.

The­uns Jou­bert and Mari van der Walt (Salom Agri Toy­ota Auris) drove a mea­sured race to fin­ish sev­enth over­all and win the NRC4 chal­lenge af­ter the Namib­ians Wilro Dip­pe­naar/Kes Naidoo (North City Pan­el­beat­ers Toy­ota Auris) had to with­draw just be­fore the fi­nal stage. This ef­fort also saw Jou­bert and Van der Walt fin­ish sec­ond in the re­gional event.

The bat­tle royal in the S1600 class was high­lighted by the spec­tac­u­lar crash of log lead­ers Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heer­den.

The pair hit a big jump in stage eight and their Fra­gram Tool Toy­ota Etios R2 landed badly, caus­ing it to roll over at high speed. Luck­ily both of them were un­hurt.

With Richard Leeke/Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fi­esta R2) rolling out of con­tention af­ter break­ing a con­trol arm and AC Pot­gi­eter/Tommy du Toit (Ricky B VW Polo R2) dam­ag­ing the ra­di­a­tor when hit­ting a ma­jor jump, both re­tir­ing in stage nine, Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (Man­i­tou VW Polo R2) moved up to sec­ond in the class, fin­ish­ing nearly one minute and 40 sec­onds be­hind the Etios team, with Van Beur­den/Swartz third.

The sev­enth and penul­ti­mate round of the 2015 South African Rally cham­pi­onship, the Toy­ota Cape Rally, is sched­uled for 18 and 19 Septem­ber in the Western Cape Province.

PHOTO: MARC BOW

FROM LEFT: Volk­swa­gen’s third-placed Pierre Ar­ries cel­e­brates his podium with Toy­ota’s first-placed Leeroy Poul­ter and Elvéne Coet­zee and sec­ond­placed Giniel de Vil­liers.

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