MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

STAGE SET FOR EXCITING PENULTIMATE ROUND OF CLOSE-FOUGHT SA NATIONAL RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP IN POLOKWANE

Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) currently enjoy a comfortable 31-point lead in the South African S2000 Rally Championship over factory team-mates Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan following their victory in the fifth round, the Imperial Toyota Cullinan Rally, in Gauteng in August.

Leeroy Poulter
Leeroy Poulter

With this weekend’s penultimate round in Polokwane Poulter and Coetzee have 124 points from three wins and a second place finish and are looking good to land Toyota its first national championship victory since 2004 and its record 104thsince the championship began in 1960.

Fekken and Swan have 93 points with a second and two third place finishes as their best results. Defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fiesta) have 87,5 points and are one of only two other crew to have won a round, in a topsy turvy season that has seen them fail to finish once and complete one round under half-points Super Rally rules. The only other driver to have won an event this year is Giniel De Villiers. De Villiers claimed a maiden national championship rally victory to add to his many wins in circuit racing and cross country racing when he and Godrich in the Imperial Toyota Yaris scored a popular win in the most recent Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in the Western Cape.

With the rules requiring that each crew drop its worst score at the end of the season (a non-finish counts as zero points and may be dropped), as things stand at the moment it’s pretty certain that one of the current top three will take the title.

It’s been a close-fought and exciting season so far and, once again, while wins are important, consistency and regular good scores have proved to be the name of the game. Poulter and Coetzee haven’t failed to finish a round. Neither have the VW factory crews currently occupying fourth and fifth places in the championship – the visiting Dutch/Belgian duo of Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn Degandt (Sasolracing VW Polo), who have 84,5 points and Henk Lategan with 74,5 points.

Any one of the top five is capable of winning before the season ends, as are Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, currently sixth in the championship with 69 points, and privateers Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (New Africa Developments Ford Fiesta), who are eighth with 48 points. Van Niekerk’s pace and performance in his upgraded Ford Fiesta have improved as the season has progressed. He and Snyman were second in round five, the Imperial Toyota Cullinan Rally in Gauteng, which was their best result in six years.

Former S2000 Challenge winners for older specification four-wheel drive cars, Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (Sasolracing VW Polo), will be looking for a first top-three finish in their maiden season in the top class. Two fourth place finishes have helped them to seventh in the current point standings with 59 points.

Thilo Himmel of Namibia and Armand du Toit (VW Polo) moved from the S2000 Challenge to the S2000 class after round two and are ninth overall with 48 points with a best result of fifth in round two.

The highest placed S2000 Challenge crew in the overall standings are Namibia’s Wilro Dippenaar and South African co-driver Kes Naidoo (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota Auris), who are 10thoverall with 44,5 points.

Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser (Toyota RunX) are 11th overall with 43 points and second in the S2000 Challenge.
Toyota leads the manufacturers’ championship with 555 points from Volkswagen (452.5) and Ford (337.5).