Scottburgh - The works Toyota squad took rammed home a dominant 1-2 in the Tour Natal, Round 1 of the SA rally championship as the S2000 Yaris of Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee led home the similar car of team mates Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan at the end of the two-day Tour Natal Rally in Scottburgh this afternoon.
The Tour Natal is traditionally a rough and tough event with fast, loose surface gravel roads through the South Coast sugar cane fields, and this year's was no exception; defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton rolled their Ford Fiesta S2000 within the first 500 metres of the opening special stage on Friday, damaging the Fiesta too badly to be repaired in time to enter Saturday under the half-points Super Rally rules.
Poulter and Coetzee led throughout the event, winning seven of the 14 special stages (stages 1 to 6 and stage 8) and finishing 43,9sec ahead of Fekken and Swan. Third, 1 min36 behind the winners, was the visiting Dutch/Belgian combination of Hans Weijs Junior and Bjorn Degandt in a works Volkswagen Polo S2000, who also won SS11.
Fourth was the third works Yaris of Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, just less than three minutes adrift, followed by the factory Polo of Henk Lategan and Pierre Arries, seven and a half minutes later. Nineteen-year old Lategan was actually lying third, 55 seconds behind Poulter and only 9.9 seconds behind Fekken, after winning stages 10 and 12 in an impressive late charge, when he went farming and was placed fifth under the half-points Super Rally rules.
Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo (Toyota Auris) were sixth overall and first in the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars. They ran as high as third overall on Friday until an overheating engine and alternator failure forced them out after five stages. They continued under Super Rally rules on Saturday.
SUPER RALLY RULES
The second S2000 Challenge crew home - and seventh overall - were Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser (Toyota RunX), who completed Day 1 in second, behind S2000 Challenge debutants Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit (VW Polo). Himmel rolled out of contention on Saturday's opening stage, but was placed ninth overall and third in the Challenge under Super Rally rules.
Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (Ford Fiesta S2000) went off the road and rolled only three kilometres into the opening special stage on Friday, but competed on Saturday under Super Rally rules and were classified eighth overall and sixth in S2000 after winning three of the day's eight stages. `
Former S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin, making their debut in the premier class in the third factory VW Polo, were stranded in stage three on Friday with engine problems. They competed on Saturday under Super Rally rules, but run into more problems and were not classified as finishers.
Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Etios R2) convincingly won the two-wheel drive class, dominating a strong entry of 16 cars, winning the lion's share of the stages and finishing 12min34 ahead of second-placed Willie van Straaten and Scott Howden in a Toyota RunX, and 14min07 in front of Andrew Heine and Robbie Coetzee (Toyota Auris).
Botterill and Vacy-Lyle led by 49.4 seconds after Friday's six special stages from defending champions Clint Weston Christoff Snyders (Citroen C2 R2), who were plagued by electrical problems and a misfire, and Ashley Haigh-Smith and Damian van Ass (Ford Fiesta R2), who were a further 22.1 seconds in arrears after being slowed by rear suspension problems.
While their rivals fell by the wayside on Saturday, Botterill and Vacy-Lyle went on to score maximum points and get their debut season in the Toyota Etios off to the best possible start.
FUEL PRESSURE PROBLEMS
Weston and Snyders were forced out by loss of fuel pressure on stage 12, but were classified as finishing seventh under Super Rally rules. Haigh-Smith and Van Ass were also plagued by fuel pressure problems and eventually finished ninth.
Lourens van Rensburg and Pierre Jordaan (Ford Fiesta R2) were fourth, ahead of Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Toyota Etios R2), who were slowed by a variety of ills that included a damaged lower control arm and electrical problems that affected the gear changes.
Casualties included Chris Coertse and his 16-year-old co-driver Mari van der Walt (Toyota Etios R2), who rolled on Friday's stage three and were then eliminated on stage nine on Saturday with a broken drive shaft while competing under Super Rally rules.
A promising run by Chad van Beurden and Nico Swartz, who were fourth overnight, came to an end on stage 11 on Saturday when they rolled their VW Polo R2 out of the rally.
The next round of the championship will be the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga on 11 and 12.