The MTN Polokwane Rally is not only the final round of the 2011 South African Rally Championship, but it also plays host to a nail-biting fight for the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship accolades.
The Limpopo Province’s rally roads, last used several years ago, drew in nine high-speed yet tricky and slippery stages on Day One. The dry and dusty farm tracks used for the rally route show off the beauty of the region and the diversity of rallying roads on offer.
With 127.86km of competition, it is Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee, Toyota’s Auris S2000 factory driver, who stand on the top step of the leader board at the Day One overnight halt. Volkswagen’s Hergen Fekken is second overall (and only 2.8 seconds off the leader’s pace) while Mark Cronje (Ford Fiesta S2000) rounds out the podium 6.1 seconds behind. The rally’s lead has changed several times, but is only a sliver of an indication of the thrilling and exciting rallying unfolding before us.
Boasting the largest privateer rally team in South Africa, Team Total reaches this season-ending event with excitement and eagerness. The four-car squad has recorded strong results throughout the year, but will be looking to capitalise on their pace this weekend.
Team Total contests the premier Class S2000 with two crews and the Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive Championship with two crews. All four cars are Toyotas, with the Class S2000 machines the latest iterations of the rally-winning Auris S2000.
Mohammed Moosa and co—driver Grant Martin (number #9 Team Total Toyota Auris S2000) have regularly finished within the top ten this season, and their Day One performance of this two-day rally sees them sitting in ninth position at the overnight halt. This pairing is embroiled in an intense battle for seventh position, with just a little over 28 seconds separating the three crews. The slightest of mistakes from Moosa’s rivals will see the driver move up the leader board.
Class S2000 compatriots Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Carolyn Swan (number #10 Team Total Toyota Auris S2000) finished the previous round of the South African Rally Championship in fourth place overall, and have been working feverishly in their new rally machine to move onto the podium at this event. By the end of Day One, this crew were forced to retire from the event after clipping a tree in tricky twisty section in the third stage of the event.
With the Two Wheel Drive Championship in sight, Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee find themselves lying fourth in Class S1600 and the Two Wheel Drive series’ lead. Trott is 16 seconds off adrift of another valuable podium result.
Unfortunately, Stefanie Botha and Angela Shields’ 2011 South African Rally Championship season came to an abrupt end in the fourth stage of the event as the pairing was forced to retire with mechanical problems. Employing SupeRally regulations, Botha and Shields will take to Day Two’s stages.
The Route Ahead:
A further seven stages and over 50km of high-speed rallying awaits Team Total on Sunday. The stages are being held to the north of the city of Polokwane, before the crews head to the Peter Mokaba Stadium in the fast-growing city for the rally-ending super special stage on tarmac.
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