The inaugural Ford Dealer Rally ended in Cullinan, Gauteng on Saturday afternoon with a win for reigning champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in a works Ford Fiesta S2000.
It was the championship leaders' fourth win in five rallies and, with three rounds remaining, they have a 30-point lead at the top of the standings. Cronje and Houghton won eight of the 14 special stages over the two-day event, which was run in the historical diamond mining area of Cullinan east of Pretoria and included a special spectator stage on tarmac in the parking lot of the Mamelodi Plaza.
It was the perfect weekend for Ford, with Fiesta winning the premier S2000 class, the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars and the two-wheel drive S1600 class, although Toyota took the Manufacturers' award and extended its lead in the Manufacturers' championship.
Henk Lategan and Barry White (Volkswagen Polo S2000) were second overall, 1 min 16 sec in arrears. The 20-year-old Lategan came from fifth overnight and added another three stage wins to the two he scored on Friday. Had it not been for a 20-second penalty for deviating from the route on Friday he would have finished the first day in third.
DETERMINED LATE CHALLENGE
Third was Toyota Yaris crew Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan, who finished 42 seconds behind the Polo and in turn just managed to hold off a determined late challenge from worksToyota team mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee.
Poulter and Coetzee were penalised 70 seconds for two jump starts on Friday, which dropped them from second to eighth overnight and cost them a second-place finish. Seven top-three finishes in Saturday's eight stages saw them close to within six seconds of their team-mates at the finish at Zonderwater Correctional Services in Cullinan.
Privateers Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (Ford Fiesta S2000) were fifth and enjoyed their best result of the season so far in only the second outing in their New Africa Developments Ford Fiesta S2000 Challenge entry.
Former champions Enzo Kuun and Douglas Judd (VW Polo S2000) scraped home in sixth place with a fast-finishing Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich (Toyota Yaris S2000) just two seconds behind them.
Completing the top 10 were Toyota Auris S2000 Challenge crews Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray, and Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen, with Stephanie Botha and her father Willem Hugo 10th in the S200 Challenge Toyota RunX.
Defending S2000 Challenge champions, Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (VW Sasolracing Polo), were forced to retire when their VW Polo dropped a valve on Saturday's second stage, while former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley were cruelly robbed of a hard-earned fifth when their Ford Fiesta S2000 broke a camshaft belt on the final stage.
Works Volkswagen stalwarts had a weekend they'd prefer to forget, going out after hitting a gate in Stage 2 on Friday. They re-started on Saturday morning under Super Rally rules, suffering stiff penalties for all the stages missed, but only managed to finish two stages before retiring once again with a severe vibration.
Two-wheel drive S1600 class honours went to a resurgent Ashleigh Haigh-Smith and Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R2), who were 12th overall and 1 min 22 sec ahead of the second S1600, the VW Polo R2 of Chad van Beurden and Nico Swartz. It was circuit racer Van Beurden's best result in his first year in rallying and came after he and Swartz won the final stage.
Haigh-Smith had started fourth on Saturday after a puncture on Friday dropped them to eighth after the first three stages. They fought back magnificently to win the class for the first time this season. Third were Paul Franken and Henry Kohne (VW Polo R2) in their best result of the season, just eight tenths of a second behind after more than two hours and 160 kilometres of gravel-road racing.
The next round of the SA Rally series will be the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in the Western Cape on 13 and 14 September.