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Gemmell wins 'wettest rally in years'

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IOL mot pic jul16 Gemmell VW Rally 1

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Not even all-wheel drive could stop Toyota Auris crew Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan from slithering all over the place.

The 30th Volkswagen Rally, round four of the SA Rally championship, was run in the wettest and most slippery conditions seen on a national championship event for many years.

Despite rain that fell throughout the two-day event and resulted in three of the scheduled 12 stages being cancelled due to flooding, Toyota Auris crew Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan were provisionally declared the overall winners at the finish in Port Elizabeth.

It was Gemmell's first national rally championship victory since he won the 2010 VW Rally in a Toyota and leapfrogged him and Swan into the lead of the championship, three points clear of Fords Fiesta crew Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton. Swan was also the first woman navigator to win the VW Rally.

WINNING MARGIN ONLY 12 SECONDS

Second, just 12 seconds behind the winners, were former national champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley in a Ford Fiesta, who won four of Sunday's five stages as they chased the winning Toyota to the end of the final special stage, a tarmac sprint in King's Beach car park alongside the Indian Ocean.

Gemmell led Habig by five seconds at the overnight stop in Uitenhage after each had won a stage, but the lead opened up to 27 seconds when Habig had to stop on Sunday's opening stage to demist the Ford's windscreen.

Cronje and Houghton, fourth overnight behind Gemmell, Habig and the second works Toyota of Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee after Friday's four stages, finished third, 92 seconds behind the winners. Poulter gave away what had looked to be a sure podium position when he went farming on Special Stage 9 beached the Toyota trying to get back on the road.

FATHER AND SON SIXTH AND SEVENTH

Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey (Ford Fiesta) followed up their maiden win in the recent Gauteng Dealer Rally with fourth, 4 min 22 seconds behind Gemmell and Swan, with former national champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (VW Polo) in provisional fifth, 28 seconds further adrift. They started the final day 13th after completing most of Friday's stages in two-wheel drive and were 4 min 50 in arrears at the end.

Sixth were Hein Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (Peugeot 207), while Lategan's 18-year-old son Henk enjoyed his best result to date when he and navigator Barry White brought their VW Polo home seventh and won the S2000 Challenge class for older-specification four-wheel drive cars.

S1600 CLASS

Provisional winners of the S1600 class for two-wheel drive cars were 19-year-old Ashley Haigh-Smith and motoring journalist Patrick Vermaak (Ford Fiesta R2), who were 17th overall and 50 seconds ahead of second-placed Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee (Toyota RunX).

Third were Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota RunX), who were a further eight seconds in arrears and 22 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Tjaart Conradie and Kes Naidoo (Toyota RunX).

Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie (VW Polo) led the class at the overnight stop but lost eight minutes when they went off the road on Stage 9 and dropped to eighth in class at the finish.

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