After winning the first two rounds of the South African Rally Championship, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (S2000 Sasol Ford Fiesta) have firmly established themselves as the early front runners for the driver and co-driver titles.
Victories at the Total Rally in KwaZulu-Natal in March and the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga on April 20 and 21 have secured the two Pretoria businessmen a full-house score of 50 points and an eight-point lead over nearest rivals, Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Auris). The Toyota pair has finished a close second in both rounds so far, losing out by 39, 3 seconds in KZN and by 3, 1 seconds in Mpumalanga. Between them the two have dominated the timed special stages this year, winning 21 out of 29, with Cronje/Houghton victorious in 14 and Gemmell/Swan fastest in seven.
An impressive third overall is the multiple championship-winning pair of Jan Habig and Robert Paisley with 34 points in their first season in a brand new left-hand drive Basil Read Ford Fiesta after switching from the right-hand drive factory Volkswagen Polo they campaigned last year. Tied with Habig and Paisley, in an equally impressive performance so far are South African championship rookies Dutch driver Hans Weijs Jnr and Belgian co-driver Bjorn Degandt in a factory BP Volkswagen Polo.
Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey are fifth in the second Sasol Ford Fiesta with 28 points. They enjoy a slim one-point lead over the Team Total Toyota Auris pair of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin and the second Basil Read Ford Fiesta of Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich, who are tied in sixth place. The top six are all competing in four-wheel drive S2000 cars.
Leading the S2000 Challenge for earlier spec S2000 cars with 33 points and a fine eighth overall with 24 points are Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin in a BP Volkswagen Polo. Competing in their first season in the premier class after stepping up from the S1600 two-wheel drive class, Zulu and Peskin followed up a 12th overall in the opening round with their best-ever result of sixth overall in the Sasol Rally.
Second in the S2000 Challenge with 15 points and 13th overall are Namibians Wilro Dippenaar and Morne du Toit (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota RunX), who won the challenge in the Total Rally but were non-finishers in Mpumalanga. Werner Koekemoer and Etienne Lourens (Glasurit Toyota RunX) and 17-year-old S2000 rookie Henk Lategan and Barry White (Q8 Oils Volkswagen Polo) are joint third in the S2000 Challenge with 12 points each after scoring all their points in the Sasol Rally. Koekemoer/Lourens did not compete in the first round and Lategan/White rolled out of contention on the first day of the Total Rally in their debut S2000 outing.
Making up the top 10 in the overall points positions are Team Total’s Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen (Toyota Auris) in ninth place with 20 points and former champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (BP Volkswagen Polo) in 10th. After scoring a good fifth place in their first outing in the all-new 2012 factory Polo, the experienced VW pair had the misfortune of retiring with a flat battery within kilometres of the start of the final stage on the Sasol Rally.
Consistency has been the name of the game in the Two Wheel Drive Championship for S1600 cars with surprise but deserving leaders being Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray in a BP Volkswagen Polo. A fifth in the Total Rally and a second in the Sasol earned them a log-leading 37 points, two ahead of Murray Lloyd and Ralph Lehmann (MLC Computer Solutions Volkswagen Polo). Former champion Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee (Team Total Toyota RunX) share third place with Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie (Volkswagen Polo), surprise winners of the class in the Sasol Rally after the earlier pace setters had all fallen out on 25 points.
Lloyd and Lehmann have strung together a third and a fifth, while Trott and Coetzee scored full points with a win in the Total Rally, but retired from the Sasol with a broken drive shaft.
Ashley Haigh-Smith (Castrol Ford Fiesta R) has been the pace setter in the two wheel drive championship, but non finishes in both rounds (with Celeste Snyders in the Total Rally when the Ford suffered engine problems, and Craig Parry in the Sasol Rally after a driveshaft broke while they were leading) have put him on the back foot.
The next round of the championship is the Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally on 8 and 9 June.