The final roll of the dice…that’s what this weekend’s Polokwane Rally will be for reigning rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton as they go all out to retain their crowns…
In what has been a topsy-turvy season, the Ford Fiesta-mounted champions have been able to record two victories from six starts, but aim to stamp their authority on the remaining two rounds and get back to the top of the points table. The penultimate round, which starts in the capital of Limpopo Province at midday on Friday, will see competitors tackling 180 km of rally distance spread over 11 stages. For Cronje and Houghton in the Ford Dealer Team entry the event will be crucial to setting the scene for a final showdown.
“We’ve had more than our fair share of bad luck this year and the rally gods seem to have had it in for us on occasion,” says Cronje, who nevertheless remains upbeat about their prospects. “There are still 50 points up for grabs, and we’re 36.5 points behind the leaders, so there’s still much more than just a theoretical chance of us getting to the front. But one thing is certain: we need a solid result this weekend if we’re going to be in a position to attack in the final event.”
Cronje/Houghton have won 28 – or almost 40 percent – of all the special stages run to date this year so are clearly still the pacesetters when it comes to outright pace. This makes in doubly disappointed to be in an uncharacteristic third place in the standings. Nevertheless, their deficit to the leaders is actually 29,5 points (after recalculating the points to discount a team’s worst finish of the year), so the fight is still very much on.
“Both Robin and I have found ourselves in tougher situations in our motorsport careers, so come Friday it is business as usual and the focus will be on doing the best we can. We intend winning this weekend’s rally and taking the championship down to the wire,” said Cronje defiantly.