Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Auris) closed the gap to championship leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) after finishing sixth in the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally, which finished at Zwartkops Raceway west of Pretoria on Sunday.
Despite losing some four minutes on Saturday’s opening stage after stopping to replace a flat wheel, Gemmell was able to reduce Cronje’s championship lead to just three points after the Ford failed to finish day one and eventually came 11th overall after restarting on Sunday under the Super Rally rules. Cronje hit a donga 1,5 kilometres into the opening stage, destroying the Ford’s rear suspension.
Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee retired the second Castrol Team Toyota Auris at the end of the second stage on Sunday with engine problems. They were in eighth place at the time, one place behind their team-mates, after also stopping to replace a flat wheel on Saturday’s opening stage.
Privateers Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin flew the Toyota flag high when they finished in third place in their Team Total Toyota Auris, 4,9 seconds behind second-placed Hein Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (Peugeot 203) and 11,8 seconds behind the winning Ford Fiesta of Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey.
“Without the puncture Johnny would have almost certainly won,” said Castrol Team Toyota boss Glyn Hall. “The wheel change took too long due to soft ground and difficulty keeping the jack upright. With a normal, two-minute tyre change there was still a possibility to win. The Auris was quick and Johnny pushed hard with the championship in mind. Leeroy was also on the pace until his engine problem.”
The next round of the championship is the Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape on July 13 and 14.