Cronje closes in on championship, Coetzee leads co-drivers crown again
After his confident victory in the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally the Ford Performance driver Mark Cronje is well set to take his third drivers’ title in the South African Rally Championship.
With one event remaining Cronje, on 88 points, leads the championship in his Ford Performance Fiesta S2000 7.5 points clear of reigning drivers’ champion Leeroy Poulter (Team Castrol Toyota Yaris).
However, after dropping the points from their worst result this season the gap is 9 points, which means even if Poulter wins the final round of the championship in Polokwane , the 2012 and 2013 champion only needs to finish third overall or higher to clinch this year’s title.
While the Ford Performance team’s decision to replace Robin Houghton, Cronje’s long-standing navigator, with Gerhard Snyman paid handsome dividends in the Cape, it has negated any chance of winning the navigators’ championship as well.
Houghton, on 72 points even without participating in the penultimate round, is still in a position to challenge for the co-drivers’ title, but will in all probability not compete the final round.
This means Elvéne Coetzee, Poulter’s navigator in the Castrol Toyota team, is for all intents and purposes the winner of the 2015 navigators’ championship.
With a total of 80.5 points, and with points for her worst result subtracted, Coetzee cannot be overtaken by her team mate Carolyn Swan (49 points) – even if she doesn’t partake of the final event.
Finishing runner-up in the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally has elevated Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo driver Gugu Zulu to third position in the drivers’ championship.
With 53 points he now leads Castrol Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers by 3.5 points, and while they cannot challenge the two frontrunners, a major tussle between them can be expected in the final event in their quest to secure third place in the championship.
Fifth overall in the drivers’ championship on 31 points is Henk Lategan from the Sasolracing Volkswagen team, with his highly experienced team mate Hergen Fekken, after only competing in five events, a mere five points adrift on 26.
Pierre Arries, who navigated for Zulu before moving over to partner Fekken, is currently fourth in the navigators’ championship on 40 points, 9.5 points behind Swan, while Hilton Auffray, who took over the hot seat next to Zulu, is only a single point behind him.
With one event remaining Japie van Niekerk (NAD Ford Fiesta), after two non-finishes and not participating in the last rally, is still seventh on the log with 23 points, while Snyman, his regular co-driver, is now sixth in the navigators’ championship on 32 points – one point ahead of Barry White, navigator for Lategan.
After another withdrawal Namibians Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo) still has 19 points, just ahead of young Ernie van der Walt and Greg Godrich (Vecto Fuel Toyota Yaris), on 17 points after finishing fifth in the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally.
Wilro Dippenaar (North City Panel Beaters Toyota Auris) is now level-pegged with Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt (Salom Agri Toyota Auris) on 10.5 points, but Dippenaar’s regular navigator, Kes Naidoo, now has 15.5 points after navigating Enzo Kuun in the NAD Ford Fiesta to sixth position on the Cape event.
In NRC4 Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser (Accident Guru Toyota Auris), on 9 points, still leads the Challenge from Dippenaar/Naidoo (8 points) and Joubert/Van der Walt (7 points).
After a resounding win in the Cape event the KwaZulu-Natal pairing of Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2) opened up a sizeable lead in the S1600 class.
The pair, on 75 points after four wins in the season, is now 11 points clear of team mates Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Toyota Etios R2).
The latter pair finished second in class in a borrowed car in the penultimate round of the season, but Botterill and Vacy-Lyle now only need a sixth place finish in the final event to put the seal on their second national title.
Even after a non-finish in their local event Capetonians Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (Manitou Group Volkswagen Polo R2) are only 7.5 points behind the Fragram Tools Toyota crew, so expect a good scrap in Polokwane.
Fourth on the log is Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz ((Jem Sport Ford Fiesta R2), still on 45 points after missing the Cape round, while Richard Leeke Jnr/Rikus Fourie ((ATS Ford Fiesta R2) is fifth on 37 points.
In the Manufacturers’ championship Toyota still lead and with 301.5 points is virtually assured of another victory in this category, while Volkswagen is second with 235.5 points, followed by Ford on 182 points.
The final round of the 2015 South African National Rally championship, the Polokwane Rally, is scheduled for 17 and 18 October in the Limpopo Province