Defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton took their Ford Fiesta to its fifth win of the season when they narrowly won the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, Round 6 of the SA National championship at the weekend.
Second, just 1.8 seconds behind after 10 special stages and 172km of high-speed racing on gravel roads on Friday and Saturday in the Durbanville, Malmesbury and Moorreesburg areas, were Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan in a works Toyota Yaris.
The results are provisional and subject to an appeal - lodged by Toyota Motorsport and to be heard in Johannesburg within the next 14 days - against a decision to rescind a 10-second penalty imposed on Cronje and Houghton for a jumped start in the last of Friday's special stages.
A distant third, 3min57 behind the winners, were former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo) who recorded their best result of the season to date. Fourth, 4min42 in arrears, and winners of the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars, were local favourite Jean-Pierre Damseaux and navigator Hilton Auffray in a Toyota Auris.
Current S2000 Challenge title holders Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin were fifth in a VW Polo, ahead of the Yaris of Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee in the second works Yaris, and Henk Lategan and Barry White in a VW Polo.
Making up the top 10 were the top S1600 two-wheel drive cars of Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (Toyota Etios R2), and Clint Weston and Christoff Snyders (Citroen C2 R2).
The battle for overall honours was fought among the elite four-wheel drive S2000 crews in cold and windy conditions on Friday and wet and slippery conditions on Saturday after overnight rain that continued throughout much of the morning.
It was an absorbing three-way contest right from the start, between the Ford of Cronje and Houghton and the Toyotas of Gemmell and Swan and Poulter and Coetzee. Between them they won nine of the 10 stages with four going to Gemmell, three to Poulter and two to Cronje. Each led at some stage on Friday before Cronje and Houghton prevailed and finished the first day 12 secionds ahead of Gemmell and Swan and 24 seconds in front of Poulter and Coetzee.
The Toyotas took control on Saturday, winning the first four of the day's five stages; Poulter and Coetzee moved into the overall lead on stage eight ahead of Cronje and Houghton, and Gemmell and Swan. Engine problems saw Poulter drop out on stage nine while holding a 17 second lead over Cronje, while Gemmell struck a blow for his team by taking over the lead, four seconds ahead of Cronje with the final 12.4-kilometre special stage remaining.
Lategan and White won the final stage with Cronje and Houghton overtaking Gemmell and Swan in a nail-biting finish, prevailing by the closest of margins.
The S1600 two-wheel drive class saw a triumphant return to form of early season championship leaders, Namibian Himmel and Du Toit. A gripping battle with arch-rivals Weston and Snyders resulted in their winning nine of the 10 stages between them, five going to Himmel and four to Weston.
Himmel and Du Toit led Weston and Snyders by a comfortable minute at the Friday overnight stop and went on to win the first two stages on Saturday. But the Citroen crew fought back to win stages three, four and five and close the gap to just 1min42 at the finish.
Third, in their best result of the season, were Lourens van Rensburg and Jason Plumbley (Ford Fiesta) ahead of Chris Coertse and Robbie Coetzee (Toyota Etios R2) and defending Two Wheel Drive champion Craig Trott and Janine Lourens in a Toyota RunX.
Championship leaders Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Toyota RunX) were classified eighth; they finished under Super Rally rules after retiring after stage two on Friday with mechanical problems.he next round of the championship will be the Polokwane Rally in Limpopo on 18 and 19 October.