Mark Cronje and the Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Reigning South African Rally Champions, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton, finished fifth on the Malcolm Wilson Rally, which ended late in the afternoon of March 2 in the Cumbrian city of Cockermouth, England.

It was their first taste of overseas competition, taking part courtesy of M-Sport’s Malcolm Wilson, benefactor of the event and founder of the company which built the S2000 Ford Fiesta which took them to the 2012 title. On the one-day, seven special stage event they campaigned a Fiesta similar to what is used in the World Rally Championship.

The duo ran as high as third place overall before a spin on stage five – Grizedale South – cost them about 30 seconds and dropping them down to fifth. A cautious approach on the penultimate stage saw them lose a further place, before they clawed it back on the final timed section.

The event was won by Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton in a Ford Focus WRC, 20 seconds ahead of the similar machine of Paul Bird/Carl Williamson. Cronje/Houghton finished one minute and 32 seconds behind the leader

“It has been an amazing experience,” enthused Cronje. “We were up against some tough opposition in full WRC-type cars running the latest developments, and we really had to give it our all. We were unfortunate that the rear anti-roll bar broke on the 13 km fourth stage and then had to complete the following 18 km stage with the car not handling perfectly as a result, which probably contributed to our spin. Nevertheless, I loved every minute of it!”

“It has been a privilege to be part of M-Sport for the event,” added Houghton. “They gave us all the support we could’ve wanted and a great car to boot. It has been a real eye-opener and the perfect way to prepare us for our title defence, which starts back home in less than a week’s time.

“The event was very professionally run and the setting in the Lake District of Cumbria was a bonus. We’ve experienced some beautiful roads – very technical and challenging – which were perfect for high speed rallying. We’ve also gathered some useful information which we can put to good use in the year ahead.”

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