Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris) increased their lead in the South African S2000 National Rally Championship to 27 points over team-mates Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan when they won the fifth round, the Imperial Toyota Cullinan Rally, in Gauteng on Saturday afternoon. It was their third victory of the season and came after they won four of the 12 special stages that made up the 155 kilometres of racing on private gravel farm roads in the Cullinan and Bronkhorstspruit areas. Their winning margin was 20,5 seconds over second-placed Japie Van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman (New Africa Developments Ford Fiesta).
The Ford pair produced their best performance of the past three seasons together, winning special stages eight and 10 today after reaching the overnight halfway point yesterday in fourth place, 25 seconds behind day one winners Poulter and Coetzee. Van Niekerk has shown great pace in his Ford, which was upgraded this year, but his best result prior to this was fifth in the PMC Gauteng Rally in May. His previous best-ever performance in a national championship rally was third in the Tour Natal Rally in 2008.
Fekken and Swan came in third today, 54 seconds behind their winning team-mates and 33 seconds in arrears of the Ford pair. Fekken won stage three yesterday on his way to second place at the overnight stop, but dropped 11 seconds on stage eight today to fall back to fourth place behind the Volkswagen Sasol racing Polo of Dutchman Hans Weijs Jnr and Belgian Bjorn Degandt. He moved up to third place on stage 11 after Weijs rolled the factory VW.
Fourth were Henk Lategan and Barry White in another factory VW Polo, who made up one place on their overnight position and finished 1 minute 8 seconds behind the winners. Defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fiesta) had another eventful and frustrating rally in their quest for a third successive championship. Any chance of closing the gap to the leading Toyota were dashed on Friday when they lost a lot of time after hitting a rock and breaking a gearbox and were classified sixth at the halfway mark.
They won the opening and closing stages on Friday and also the first stage today, but were only able to make up one place today to finish fifth, 1 min 28 seconds in arrears. Wilro Dippenaar from Namibia and Kes Naidoo (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota Auris) were sixth, 4 minutes 36 seconds behind the winners and first in the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars. Seventh was the third Sasolracing VW of former S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin. (+5 min 18 sec) and eighth were Namibian Thilo Himmel and South African co-driver Armand Du Toit in an Investec VW Polo (+5 min 49 sec).
Making up the top 10 were Weijs and Degandt, who were provisionally classified under Super Rally rules as finishing ninth and awarded half points, and Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser (Toyota RunX). Giniel De Villiers and Greg Godrich (Imperial Toyota Yaris), who suffered a broken drive shaft on stage four on Friday within a kilometre of the flying finish and were forced to complete the remaining stages in rear-wheel drive, fell out on stage eight this morning with a broken rear diff and were provisionally classified 11th and awarded half points under Super Rally rules.
The next round of the championship is the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in the Western Cape on September 19 and 20.