Port Elizabeth, Saturday – South African champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton scored their third win of the season as Ford dominated the Volkswagen Rally, round four of the South African National Rally Championship, which ended in Port Elizabeth.
Cronje and Houghton, in the Ford Dealer Team Fiesta, finished well clear of Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, in the Basil Read Ford Fiesta, to pull ahead of the veteran former South African champions in the championship standings. Only one point separated the two crews before this weekend’s event.
The two Ford crews dominated proceedings from the start and there was to be little cheer for Volkswagen on the 31st edition of their own rally. The best result the VW Sasolracing Polo team could conjure up was fifth place for Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries with the pair coming home behind former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, in the Imperial Toyota Yaris, and Cape crew Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray (Team Total Toyota Auris) who won the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars.
For de Villiers and Godrich it was their best result of the season with the pair starting the day in fifth place.
VW Sasolracing crew Enzo Kuun and Douglas Judd fought back strongly to finish sixth ahead of last year’s winners, Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan, in the first of the factory Team Castrol Toyota Yaris entries.
Gemmell and Swan were delayed by power steering problems, and a broken control arm dropped Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee down the order with the Castrol Team Toyota pair starting the day in third place behind the two Ford crews.
Cronje and Houghton finished a minute and 24 seconds ahead of Habig/Paisley with a further three minute gap to de Villiers and Godrich underlining the Ford supremacy. The only problem for Cronje and Houghton was a puncture which, in the end, was of little consequence.
The experienced Damseaux and Auffray led the S2000 Challenge overnight and were never under any real threat. They were comfortably ahead of locals Morne van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie (GC Diesel Racing VW Polo); Nic van der Westhuizen and Stefan Cilliers (SA Earthwork Toyota Auris) and Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen (Team Total Toyota Auris) who had the misfortune to break a drive shaft in the in the penultimate stage of an excellent event.
There was more disappointment for Volkswagen when reigning S2000 Challenge champions Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin were forced out with a broken gearbox. It was their first retirement in two seasons.
Volkswagen’s problems, on an event superbly organised by the Algoa Rally Association with huge crowds and exciting and testing special stages, did not end there. After leading the S1600 class for front-wheel drive cars overnight, VW Polo crews Chad van Beurden/Henry Dearlove (Beurden Construction Polo0 and Paul Franken/Henri Kohne (VW Polo) both fell by the wayside.
Clint Weston and Christof Snyders, third overnight in the Reef Tankers Citroen C2, took full advantage of the situation to come home ahead of veteran Craig Trott and Janine Lourens in the ageing Team Total Toyota RunX and Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden in Fragram Tools Toyota RunX.