It was a sponsor’s dream come true as Toyota Motorsport’s Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (S2000 four-wheel-drive Castrol Toyota Auris) were declared the winners at the end of the SA Rally Championship Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in Caledon yesterday afternoon.
Second, in their best performance so far this season, were former national champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (BP VW Polo), who finished 45 seconds behind the winners and five seconds ahead of a fast-closing Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Sasol Ford Fiesta).
Gemmell and Swan took over the lead of the championship from Cronje and Houghton with two rounds remaining and now enjoy a five-point advantage over the Ford pair.
Cronje dominated the sixth round of the championship in terms of stage wins, winning three of Friday’s six stages and five of Saturday’s stages, but a mistake on Friday’s penultimate stage cost him when he went off the road and punctured a tyre. This left him in sixth place on Friday evening, one and a half minutes behind the leading Toyota of Gemmell and Swan.
Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey were fourth in the second Sasol Ford Fiesta, nearly a minute behind their team-mates. Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin (Team Total Toyota Auris) were fifth, five seconds behind Williams and Vrey and seven seconds ahead of former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries (BP VW Polo).
Giniel de Villiers and Celeste Snyders (Imperial Toyota Auris) lost fifth place to Fekken and Arries on the final, 700-metre stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Caledon Rugby Club, the gap at the finish being a narrow two tenths of a second after 13 special stages totalling 182 kilometres of high-speed racing.
Making up the top 10 overall and among the Super 2000 four-wheel-drive cars were Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich (Basil Read Ford Fiesta), Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (BP VW Polo) and Henk Lategan/Barry White (Q8 Oils VW Polo).
Zulu and Peskin, who struggled with intercom problems on Friday, won the Super 2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars from Lategan/White and Namibians Wilro Dippenaar/Morne du Toit (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota RunX).
The 18-year-old Lategan, whose school allowed him to postpone a matric prelim exam in order to compete over the weekend, reported power steering problems on both days. Dippenaar, another of the sport’s up-and-coming teenagers, was slowed by a misfire on Saturday, the 19-year-old finishing 13th overall.
Provisional winners of the Two Wheel Drive category for S1600 cars were Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota RunX). It was a maiden class win for the pair, who finished 14th overall and over a minute ahead of Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie (GC Diesel VW Polo) and four minutes in front of Ashley Haigh-Smith and Kes Naidoo (Castrol Ford Fiesta R2).
Haigh-Smith had dominated the class until yesterday’s final short stage in Caledon when he rolled the Ford, gifting the lead to Botterill. He lost more time on Saturday with a broken gearbox mounting. Janse van Rensburg was slowed on Saturday by a persistent misfire on the VW.
Two Wheel Drive Championship leaders Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee (Team Total Toyota RunX) retained their advantage with a trademark trouble-free run to fourth place in a car that is six years old and outgunned by the more modern machinery of many of their rivals.
Paul Franken and Henry Kohne, who were third overnight in their Toyota Corolla in their best performance of the year, retired after Saturday’s first stage with gearbox problems.
The next round of the championship is the Polokwane Rally in Limpopo on October 6 and 7.
Final Overall Classification:
01) J. Gemmell/C. Swan
Toyota Auris S2000 – 01h 33m 29.1s
02) E. Kuun/G. Hodgson
Volkswagen Polo S2000 + 45.2s
03) M. Cronje/R. Houghton
Ford Fiesta S2000 + 50.5s
04) J. Williams/C. Vrey
Ford Fiesta S2000 + 01m 46.9s
05) J-P. Damseaux/G. Martin
Toyota Auris S2000 + 01m 52.2s
06) H. Fekken/P. Arries
Volkswagen Polo S2000 + 01m 59.5s
07) G. de Villiers/C. Snyders
Toyota Auris S2000 + 01m 59.7s
08) C. Wilken/G. Godrich
Ford Fiesta S2000 + 02m 20.0s
09) G. Zulu/C. Peskin
Volkswagen Polo S2000 + 02m 38.7s
10) H. Lategan/B. White
Volkswagen Polo S2000 + 02m 51.4s