Mark Cronje has sealed the 2015 South African Rally Championship by winning the final event of the year, the Polokwane Motor Rally, in emphatic style in his Ford Performance Fiesta S2000. Cronje, also the SA drivers’ champion in 2012 and 2013, and co-driver Gerhard Snyman took the lead after the first stage on the final day of the rally in and around Polokwane, never to be headed again. An elated Cronje says: ‘We could not have wished for a better finish, it has been a hard season and sealing the championship today makes it worth all the effort from the team during the season.’
They finished the final stage of the event 22.9 seconds clear of Henk Lategan and Barry White in their Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo. Lategan/White finished the final national event 7.4 seconds ahead of former Dakar champion and the overnight rally leaders Giniel De Villiers and Carolyn Swan in their Team Castrol Toyota Yaris. For Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, the 2014 champions in their Team Castrol Toyota Yaris, the only other team to have won events this season and with a realistic chance to challenge Cronje for the championship, it was an event to forget.
Their challenge faltered yesterday when they lost over 20 seconds after suffering a puncture, and power steering problems on the stages today meant even more time lost. They eventually finished fourth, more than a minute behind the victorious Cronje and Snyman. However, by finishing the event Coetzee secured the 2015 national rally title for navigators, with Robin Houghton, Cronje’s navigator for the first six rallies, in the runner-up position, even while not competing in the final two events.
Gugu Zulu/Hilton Auffray (Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo), in their quest to wrestle third place in the championship away from De Villiers/Swan, suffered suspension problems in the first stage today – effectively ending their onslaught. Their team mates Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries endured the same, losing the right rear wheel of their Polo in the next stage, and also had to withdraw. Meanwhile young Ernie Van Der Walt and Greg Godrich slowly moved up the leader board in their Vecto Fuel Toyota Yaris to finish fifth overall, about four minutes adrift the leaders.
Theuns Joubert/Mari Van Der Walt (Salom Agri Toyota Auris) drove a steady rally to finish sixth overall, thereby also winning their class and the 2015 Class NRC4 series. Namibian Marko Himmel/Gert Nienaber (Northern Panel Beaters VW Polo R2) won the Class S1600 battle in Polokwane, followed Richard Leeke Jr / Rikus Fourie (ATS Fiesta R2) and AC Potgieter and Tommy Du Toit Ricky B Earthmovers VW Polo R2. However, by finishing fifth in class the Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2 pair of Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle did enough to secure their second consecutive S1600 championship.
The constructors’ prize for the Polokwane Rally was won by Toyota, and by doing so securing the Manufacturers’ championship for 2015.