Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) increased their lead in the South African S2000 National Rally Championship for four-wheel drive cars to 27 points over factory team-mates Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan when they won round five, the Imperial Toyota Cullinan Rally, in Gauteng in August.
With three rounds remaining, this weekend’s event the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, the Polokwane Motor Rally in October and the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally in November, Poulter and Coetzee have 103 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 104th individual win since the championship began in 1960.
Fekken, in his first season with Toyota after many years and two championships with Volkswagen, and Swan have 76 points with a second and two third place finishes as their best results and regained their second place in the championship after finishing third in the Cullinan event behind Poulter/Coetzee and Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (New Africa Developments Ford Fiesta).
Defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fiesta) have 72,5 points and are the only other crew to have won a round, claiming two wins in a topsy turvy season that has seen them fail to finish once and complete one round under half-points Super Rally rules.
The Ford pair is used to winning – seven out of eight rounds last year on their way to their second championship – and by winning two rounds this season they have sent out a strong signal to their rivals that they’re still in the hunt.
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 and barring any major turnaround 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), are tied with fifth-placed team-mate Henk Lategan in a second Polo on 68,5 points.
Weijs and Degandt have three third place finishes to their credit while Lategan who has also finished each event to date, with a second, a fourth and a sixth to his credit since switching to current co-driver Barry White in round two.
Any one of the top five is capable of winning a round before the season ends, as are seventh-placed privateers Van Niekerk and Snyman, whose pace and performance in the Ford has improved as the season has progressed. Their runner-up spot in the last round was Van Niekerk’s 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 sixth in the current point standings.
The highest placed S2000 Challenge crew Namibia’s Wilro Dippenaar and South African co-driver Kes Naidoo (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota Auris), are eighth overall and second in the S2000 Challenge. Ninth overall are Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich (Imperial Toyota Yaris). They started the season well with a fourth in the opening round followed by seventh in round two, but have had a DNF and two low-scoring Super Rally finishes since. They are capable of a podium finish and will be pushing hard for a good result this weekend.
Thilo Himmel of Namibia and Armand du Toit (VW Polo) moved from the S2000 Challenge to the S2000 class after round one and are 10thoverall with a best result of fifth in round two.
Leading the S2000 Challenge after the defection of Himmel and Du Toit are Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser (Toyota RunX), who are 11th overall with a beast result of seventh.
Toyota looks like it’s heading for a 15th manufacturers’ championship in 16 years and record 22nd since the championship started in 1968. Toyota leads the manufacturers’ championship with 448 points from Volkswagen 385.5 and Ford 289.5.