Round six of the South African National Rally Championship, the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally (19 and 20 September, 2014), marked a high point in the rally career of Dakar legend Giniel de Villiers. With navigator Greg Godrich beside him, the Paarl-based racing driver recorded his maiden victory in the SA National Rally Championship, despite a number of setbacks during the event.
“We had a problem with our left-front shock absorber on the first stage this morning,” said De Villiers at the end of Day Two of the Western Cape event. “I thought we were going to have to retire, but we decided to fight back regardless – and it certainly paid off!”
De Villiers has shown significant pace on the last three rounds of the championship, and got off to a strong start on Round Six too. With two stages run on the Killarney Race Track, scene of many of his touring car and Group N victories, this was always going to be a good event for De Villiers and Godrich. But their damper problem kept them out of the lead of the rally – until the very last stage.
“Giniel and Greg trailed Leeroy and Elvéne (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000) by just over a second coming into the short final stage at Meerendal Wine Estate,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after the rally. “These short sprint stages seldom have an influence on the outcome of a rally, but today was different.”
Poulter/Coetzee launched their Toyota Yaris S2000 into the final stage, knowing that all they needed was a clean run, in order to bag their third victory for the season. But a spin mid-way through the slippery grass stage at Meerendal Wine Estate saw the pair drop to second, with De Villiers/Godrich there to capitalise on Poulter’s mistake.
Teammate Hergen Fekken, with navigator Carolyn Swan beside him, had an up-and-down event. The pair was running in second place at one point, but dropped back to finish a highly credible fourth, on the slippery Cape Toyota Dealer Rally.
In Class S1600, for front-wheel drive rally machines with engines up to 1.6 liters, it was Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Toyota Etios R2 S1600) who recorded their fifth victory from six starts. The pair has been unstoppable this season, and their latest victory all but sealed the championship for them.
Chris Coertse and Mari van der Walt, in the Electrothread-supported Toyota Etios R2 S1600 brought their orange-and-white machine home in third place, contributing to Toyota being awarded the manufacturer’s prize.
“It was a great day for Toyota Motorsport,” enthused Glyn Hall. “Giniel winning his first rally was fantastic, and the manufacturer’s award is always something to be proud of. But the most important thing for us is that Leeroy has strengthened his position in the championship, and with only two rounds to go this year, it looks as if though we are on track to record an overdue championship victory.”
The next round of the South African National Rally Championship takes place in Polokwane, Limpopo, on October 17 and 18, 2014. This event is the penultimate round in the championship, and a strong performance there could seal the season for Castrol Team Toyota.
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