Fiesta time for Ford at Gauteng Rally

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IOL mot pic may26 Gauteng Rally Cronje Houghton

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The defending champions bounce back into contention for the 2014 title after two dismal rounds.

Bapsfontein - Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) led Pretoria Motor Club's Gauteng Rally from start to finish to record their first win of the 2014 season at the RallyStar Driving Academy.

After winning two of Friday's three gravel stages (stage four was cancelled because of extremely dusty conditions), they controlled matters from the front on Saturday, adding another two stage wins (stages five and seven) and finished 49 seconds ahead of Henk Lategan and Barry White's Volkswagen Polo S2000).

The works Volkswagen crew produced the performance of the day after starting in fourth, 58 seconds behind Cronje and Houghton, and winning three of the day's stages (6, 9 and 10) on their way to the runner-up spot.

Hans Weijs Junior of Holland and Bjorn Degandt of Belgium made it two factory VW Polos on the podium when they brought their car home third, a further 17 seconds in arrears. They were third overnight and a steady drive saw them score six top-six stage finishes on Saturday.

LOSING TIME

Team Toyota's Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan will be disappointed with their fourth place after they started the final day in second, 24 seconds behind Cronje and Houghton. Some overnight changes to their Yaris didn't work out and they lost a lot of time in the early part of the day before recovering in the final three stages to finish 1m11 in arrears.

Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman were happy with fifth overall in their privateer Ford Fiesta. After a poor start to the season saw them score just 11 points in two rounds, they had a steady run at the weekend to add another 16 points to their tally, 1m16 behind the leaders.

Sixth and winners of the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars were Namibian Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris). They were 3m31 behind the winners and 14m10 ahead of the second-placed S2000, the Toyota RunX of Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser.

Bakkes and Visser ran under Super Rally rules on Saturday after they were forced to drop out after stage one on Friday with engine problems. They started 11th and did well to improve to eighth at the finish.

DAMAGE CONTROL

Toyota Yaris crew Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, who led the championship coming into this event after winning the opening two rounds, finished seventh place under half-points Super Rally rules after engine problems prevented them from finishing on Friday.

They worked hard for top-three positions in each of the first four stages on Saturday (including a win in stage eight) and went on to earn valuable championship points that limited the damage to dropping from the championship lead to second place behind team-mates Fekken and Swan.

Second in the Challenge category and eighth overall overnight, Namibian Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit hit a rock on stage five on Saturday and tore off a wheel. They eventually finished ninth, 26m26 behind the winners.

Former S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin, now competing in a factory VW Polo S2000, were credited with 10th overall under Super Rally rules despite getting stuck in stage five. They had been sixth overall on Friday and had had high hopes for improving their position on Saturday.

S1600

It was three wins in a row for Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios R2) from the opening three rounds of the SA National Rally S1600 championship for two-wheel drive cars, putting the Toyota pair - who led throughout the nine gravel special stages, winning three on Friday and two on Saturday - on a maximum 75 points and well clear of the chasing pack.

Second, a distant 2min08 in arrears, were Ashley Haigh-Smith and Damian van Ass (Ford Fiesta R2), who were in turn 24 seconds ahead of third-placed Paulus Franken and Henry Kohne (VW Polo).

Chris Coertse and 16-year-old navigator Mari van der Walt (Toyota Etios R2) were fourth, ahead of Richard Leeke Junior and Rikus Fourie (Ford Fiesta R2). Leeke, at 18 the youngest driver in the championship, and the experienced Fourie were unfortunate to lose four minutes with a puncture on SS2 on Friday and completed the first day's three stages (a fourth stage was cancelled due to heavy dust at RallyStar) in ninth.

They had a clean and impressive run on Saturday, matching the stage times of the top cars and were only 4m50 in arrears at the finish.

The next round of the championship will be the Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape on 11 and 12 July.


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