Following their victory in the recent Volkswagen Rally, fifth round of the 2015 SA National Rally Championship, defending champions Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) has whittled down the gap to log leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Performance Fiesta) to nine points.
Cronje and Houghton led the championship by a fair margin after winning the first three events on the calendar, but the Castrol Toyota pair has hit back with two consecutive victories and a total of 63 points – versus the 72 of the Ford crew.
After an inspired drive in the Volkswagen Rally, claiming the final podium position, Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) have moved up to third place on the points table, displacing Volkswagen Sasolracing pilot Gugu Zulu.
De Villiers/Swan has accumulated 36.5 points and now lead Zulu – who secured four points for seventh place in the Volkswagen Rally – by 2.5 points.
Fifth on the drivers’ championship log after a fourth place finish in the Volkswagen Rally is Japie van Niekerk (NAD Ford Fiesta) – 11 behind Zulu on 23 points. However, he is now half a point ahead of the Volkswagen Sasolracing crew Henk Lategan/Barry White (22.5 points) in their Polo, while Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (VW Sasolracing Polo) are seventh on 13 points.
Namibians Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo, on 10 points, are eighth on the log and still lead the NRC4 class in their North City Panelbeaters Toyota Auris, with Hergen Fekken, having only participated in three rallies this year, ninth on the log with eight points.
In the Co-Drivers championship Houghton and Coetzee are way ahead in first and second, with 72 and 63 points respectively, while Swan is well established in third with 36.5 points. The Castrol Toyota co-driver is 14 points clear of Barry White (on 22.5 points), with Pierre Arries, who was initially paired with Zulu, only half a point behind him in fifth place.
Hilton Auffray, brought in to fill the hot seat next to Zulu, is sixth on 20 points, while Gerhard Snyman, navigator for Van Niekerk, has garnered 16 points since replacing Irishman Gordon Noble in the NAD Fiesta after the Sasol Rally.
The S1600 class is still a hotly contested affair. Having moved to the top of the leader board after back-to-back wins in Secunda and Bela-Bela Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios) endured a disastrous VW Rally and a non-finish left them stranded on 43 points.
They have been displaced by Simon’s brother, Matthew, and co-pilot Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Tools Toyota Etios) as overall leaders with 51 points after finishing runners-up in the waterlogged Eastern Cape rally.
A timely class win in the VW Rally sees early championship leaders Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (Manitou Group VW Polo R2) bounce back to second position on the log with 44.5 points, while Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz, finishing under Superally rules in their Jem Sport Ford Fiesta R2, is fourth overall on 36 points.
Richard Leeke and Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fiesta R2), also completing the even under Superally, remains in fifth with 31.5 points.
While Volkswagen secured the Manufacturers Award on the VW Rally it is still Toyota leading the manufacturer’s championship on 207 points with three events remaining. Volkswagen is second on 157.5 – eleven points clear of Ford in third on 146.5 points.
The next round of the 2015 South African National Rally Championship in the Gauteng Province is scheduled for 14 and 15 August in Cullinan.
See more photos from the Rally here