Poulter adds rally champ to local cross country title
THE 2016 South African National Rally Championship title fight is over, as Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, in association with Total Quartz, wrapped things up on their home rally, the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, this weekend.
Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee finished in second place, bagging enough points to close out the championship with one round to spare. At the same time, team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan placed their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Yaris S2000 on the top step, with De Villiers winning his second Toyota Cape Dealer Rally.
“It was a great result for us this weekend,” Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal Glyn Hall said from the podium ceremony at the Malmesbury Sports Club. “With Leeroy and Elvéne winning the 2016 title, and Giniel and Carolyn taking a well-deserved victory here in the Swartland.”
De Villiers/Swan proved to be in a class of their own in the Cape — also the scene of De Villiers’s first rally victory, when he won the event in 2014 together with navigator Greg Godrich.
This year De Villiers/Swan powered their way to victory by winning all but two of the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally’s 12 stages. Victory on Stage 6 and 12 went to teammates Poulter/Coetzee.
“We had a really good event,” said an elated De Villiers after spraying sparkling wine from the top step of the podium. “The Toyota Yaris ran faultlessly, and we had clean runs through almost every stage. It feels great to win again.”
For Poulter/Coetzee, the weekend marked the end of their unbeaten streak in the 2016 rally championship.
With that said, they bagged enough points to seal the 2016 title with a round to spare, and Poulter now counts among a small number of drivers to achieve championship victories in both rallying and cross-country racing.
“We lost a lot of time after suffering two punctures on Stage 8,” said Poulter. “It was just bad luck, but it took us out of the fight for the win.”
With just two rounds remaining in the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship for 2016, and Poulter currently leading the title chase together with navigator Rob Howie, Poulter may well match Hannes Grobler as the only driver to win both titles in the same year.
Behind the two factory Toyota Yaris S2000s, privateer Theuns Joubert and navigator Mari van der Walt (Shalom Racing Toyota Auris NRC4) completed the Toyota lock-out of the podium, by finishing in third place in the overall standings.
Things didn’t pan out as planned for defending Class S1600 champions Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle. The pair were well in control of the Class S1600 battle, when they approached a farm gate near the end of Stage 8.
It seemed that the wind may have pushed the gate slightly closed, and the pair made contact with the gate at high speed.
Cosmetically the Yato Toyota Etios S1600 escaped with only minor damage, but under its skin the radiator was punctured. “This meant that the engine overheated, and we were forced to stop. Not the way we wanted to win the championship,” said Botterill. Despite the non-finish in Cape Town, the pair had amassed more than enough points through the season to claim the class title, adding to their two previous championship wins.
“Overall we have every reason to be ecstatic with our results,” said Hall. “We achieved all of our goals this weekend: We won our home rally; Leeroy and Elvéne sealed the championship; and Guy and Simon made it three championships in a row.”
With a great spectator turnout, there is no doubt that the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally was one of the highlights of the year. Next up is the final round of the season, which is scheduled to take place in Gauteng, over the weekend of October 21 and 22.
Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee thrill the fans on their way to becoming rally champs in their race-tuned Yaris.