Misty conditions and light rain made the opening three special stages of the Sasol Rally extremely difficult for the 44 cars that started the second round of the SA National Rally Championship in Sabie at 10:00 this morning.
Leading, after winning all three stages are current championship leaders and 2012 champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in the Ford Racing Fiesta, by 50 seconds from Leeroy Poulter / Elvéne Coetzee (Team Castrol Toyota Yaris). Third a further 16 seconds in arrears is the leading Sasolracing VW Polo of youngster Henk Lategan and Barry White.
Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin in the Sasolracing VW Polo are in fifth behind Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan in another Team Castrol Toyota Yaris with the pair leading the Class 2000 Challenge for older model two litre four wheel drive cars.
Already out of the Sasol Rally are Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich in the newly launched Imperial Toyota Yaris who hit a rock on special stage two and damaged a wishbone and steering arm.
Team-mates Gemmell/Swan currently in the service park in Sabie are attending to the damage to the front end of the Yaris after going off the road in stage two.
Ashley Haigh-Smith and Craig Parry (Castrol Toyota Ford Fiesta R2) lead the S1600 category after the first two special stages from Clint Weston/Christoff Snyders (Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2) and Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Run-X).
Stalwart Craig Trott and Janine Lourens (Team Total Toyota Run-X) had a horrible special stage one with a misfire and a puncture and lost over seven minutes. “We are now in survival mode “said Trott.
Current championship leaders Thilo Himmel/Armand du Toit (Toyota Etios R2) are lying seventh after making a slow start.
Visiting English pairing of Matthew Wilson and Chris Patterson making their first appearance in South Africa on a guest basis and not scoring points, surprised the locals by winning the first two special stages and finishing second to Cronje/Houghton in special stage three.
They are out in Cronje’s spare Ford and appear to be enjoying conditions they are familiar with back home.
The weather conditions are expected to deteriorate with heavy rain forecast for this afternoon and tomorrow.