Gemmell leads the way in Toyota Cape Dealer Rally

Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris) were provisional leaders at the end of the second day of the three-day Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, round six of the SA Rally Championship, which ended in Caledon this afternoon.

After a forest special stage near Grabouw, four fast gravel special stages in the canola and wheat fields near Caledon and a final, short gravel stage in the grounds of the Caledon rugby club, the Toyota pair completed today’s route 16 seconds ahead of Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (BP VW Polo) and 54 seconds in front of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin (Total Toyota Auris).

Championship leaders at the start of the event, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Sasol Ford Fiesta), find themselves in sixth place, 1 min 29 sec in arrears, after losing the lead on the day’s fifth stage when they went off the road, damaging the Ford and puncturing a tyre. They had earlier won the first two stages of the day to establish a 22-second lead over Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn Degandt (BP VW Polo) and a 26-second advantage over Gemmell and Swan.

The Toyota pair then won the third stage to find themselves in second place after Weijs and Degandt (BP VW Polo) retired when the BP VW developed engine problems. Also casualties on this stage were Castrol Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee, with transmission problems while running fifth behind Cronje, Weijs, Gemmell and Kuun

Kuun and Hodgson moved into third place at the expense of Weijs and Degandt and went on to win the penultimate stage, benefitting from Cronje’s off-road excursion and power steering problem’s on Gemmell’s Toyota. Although he dropped half a minute, he still found himself in the overall lead at the end of the stage, 16 seconds ahead of Kuun and 58 in front of third-placed Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Grant Martin (Total Toyota Auris).

The final stage of the day, a short 1,2-kilometre gravel stage in the grounds of the Caledon rugby club, was won by Sebastiaan Klaassens and Cindi Harding (Monster Energy Ford Fiesta) from Gemmell/Swan, Kuun/Hodgson and Damseaux/Martin. Klaassens, who also won the rally’s only special stage on Thursday, a short tarmac sprint in the parking area of the CapeGate mall in Brackenfell, finished 12th today, 2 min 38 sec behind the leaders.

Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey (Sasol Ford Fiesta) were fourth overall ahead of Charl Wilken/Greg Godrich (Basil Read Ford Fiesta), Cronje/Houghton, Giniel de Villiers/Celeste Snyders (Imperial Toyota Auris), Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries (BP VW Polo), Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin (BP VW Polo) and Henk Lategan/Barry White (Q8 Oils VW Polo).

Provisional leaders of the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars were Zulu/Peskin ahead of Lategan/White and Namibian pair Wilro Dippenaar/Morne du Toit (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota RunX).

There was late drama in the hotly contested S1600 class for two-wheel-drive cars. Ashley Haigh-Smith and Kes Naidoo (Castrol Ford Fiesta R2) dominated all day and were leading Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota RunX) by 32 seconds with one stage remaining. Haigh-Smith rolled the Ford on the last stage and completed it with the bonnet against the windscreen, allowing Botterill to take the lead by 6,9 seconds. Third in the class in their strongest showing of the year are Paul Franken and Henry Kohne (Toyota Corolla).

Two Wheel Drive championship leaders Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee (Total Toyota RunX) finished fifth behind Morne J van Rensburg/Rikus Fourie (GC Diesel VW Polo) after they lost time with brake problems towards the end of the day.

A notable casualty among the S1600 crews was the combination of Clint Weston/Herman Groenewald (Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2), who went off the road and got stuck for nearly half an hour on the fifth stage. Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray were lying third in class when their rally ended after they rolled their BP VW Polo on the third stage.