Ford Dealer Team crew Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton won the Polokwane Motor Rally at the weekend to seal back-to-back South African Rally championships.
Cronje and Houghton, in a Ford Fiesta, have completely dominated the championship and overall victory and Class 2000 honours in the penultimate round of the season was their sixth success in seven starts. With the other win going to veterans Jan Habig and Robert Paisley in a privateer Fiesta, who finished well down the list under Super Rally rules after a difficult weekend, Ford have won every event so far in 2013.
The Ford crew started the second day of the rally with a narrow 1.3 second advantage over Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Yaris) but gradually pulled away from the factory Toyota Yaris of Johnny Gemmell and Caroline Swan. The final gap was a little more than 90 seconds with Gemmell and Swan coming under pressure from third placed Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries in a works VW Polo, who were only 6.7 seconds adrift at the finish.
The result saw Gemmell and Swan move into second in the standings with their seventh consecutive podium finish.
A fine performance in their Toyota Auris saw Cape crew Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray come in fourth ahead of former champions Enzo Kuun and Douglas Judd in another of the works VW Polo entries. Damseaux and Auffray also won the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars.
Sixth and seventh overall were Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris) and Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman in a privateer Ford Fiesta. They were also second and third in the S2000 Challenge, holding off Dakar Rally star Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich in their Toyota Yaris.
S1600 FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE
De Villiers and Godrich made a strong recovery after problems on Day 1 forced them to rejoin the event in the Super Rally category. They were followed home by Marko Himmel and Francois Schoonbee (Toyota Corolla) in the first of the Class S1600 front-wheel drive cars.
A solid drive brought Himmel aNd Schoonbee home ahead of teenager Richard Leeke Junior, in his first national season and back in action after a rugby injury, and Pierre Jordaan (Ford Fiesta) in Class S1600. The class was tunred on its ear by a late controversy with championship frontrunners Clint Weston and Christof Snyders (Citroen C2) and Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (Toyota Etios) excluded from the results for technical infringements.
There was major disappointment for Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee in the Toyota Yaris. After a sparkling day one performance when they were only 1.3 second behind Cronje and Houghton, a power steering problem saw them retire late in the day.
It was also an unhappy outing for reigning S2000 Challenge champions Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (VW Polo) who broke a sub frame, and Henk Lategan and Barry White (VW Polo) who were forced out by a broken steering box. Also in the wars were Class S1600 contenders Ashley Haig-Smith and Miles Skinner (Ford Fiesta R2) who called it a day when an engine sensor went into limp mode.