With back-to-back victories in the opening two rounds of the 2013 South African National Rally Championship, reigning champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (S2000 Ford Dealer Team Fiesta) have accumulated a full-house score of 50 points in their quest for a second successive title.
The Ford pair enjoy a comfortable lead of 12 points over nearest challengers Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee in a S2000 Castrol Team Toyota Yaris, who gave the new-for 2013 Yaris its best result yet with third place in the recent Sasol Rally, behind Cronje/Houghton and British pair Matthew Wilson and Chris Patterson, who were making a guest appearance in Cronje’s spare Fiesta. With the visitors not eligible for points, the Toyota factory pair was able to pick up the 21 points for second place to boost their total to 38.
Former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley are third in their privateer S2000 Basil Read Ford Fiesta with 37 points, four points ahead of fourth-placed privateers Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray (S2000 Team Total Toyota Auris), who are currently joint leaders of the S2000 Challenge for the older specification four-wheel drive cars.
The factory pairing of Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo), who won the inaugural S2000 Challenge last year, are fifth in S2000 with 31 points and share the lead of the S2000 Challenge with Damseaux and Auffray. Third in the Challenge and 11th in the S2000 championship are Team Total privateers Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen in a Toyota Auris.
Eight points behind Zulu and Peskin and in joint sixth place in the S2000 championship are Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan in the second Castrol Toyota Auris and rising young star Henk Lategan and Barry White in their first season in a factory VW Sasolracing Polo. Eighteen-year-old Lategan scored an impressive fourth place in the Sasol Rally to make up for a troubled outing in the season-opening Total Rally, where he and White only managed to score four points.
Two points behind Lategan and White in eighth place are privateers Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman in the New Africa Developments VW Polo after a top 10 finish in the last round. Ninth are Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, who had a troubled first outing in their new Imperial Toyota Yaris in Mpumalanga, and rounding out the top 10 are former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries, who have yet to show their true form in the second of the three factory VW Sasolracing Polos.
Former champion Enzo Kuun (VW Sasolracing Polo) is an unfamiliar 18th in the S2000 drivers’ championship after failing to finish either of the first two rounds, the first as a result of a high-speed crash that saw co-driver Guy Hodgson sidelined for the second event, in which Kuun and stand-in co-driver Douglas Judd were forced to retire with technical problems. Hodgson has since decided to call an end to a distinguished 40-year rally career in which he competed with distinction both internationally and in South Africa, where he won a title with Kuun.
The S1600 championship for two-wheel drive cars is proving to be a lot closer and picking a winner at this early stage would be foolish. Leading with a healthy 46 points after a win in the Total Rally and second in the Sasol Rally are Namibian national championship rookie Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit in a brand new Toyota Etios R2.
Joint second on 33 points are Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Tools Toyota RunX),after two consistent outings have seen them finish in the top five on both occasions, and circuit racer turned rally driver Chad van Beurden and experienced co-driver Henry Dearlove Jnr in a Van Beurden Construction VW Polo R2.
Megan and brother Oliver Verlaque are fourth in an ex-factory VW Polo with 31 points, one point ahead of 2012 Two Wheel Drive champion Craig Trott and new navigator Janine Lourens in Trott’s ageing Total Toyota RunX.
Sixth and seventh are two crews who have each had one great result and one poor one to date. Clint Weston and Christoff Snyders (Reef Tankers Citroen C3 R2) bounced back from a troubled Total Rally to win the Sasol Rally and move up to sixth place with 29,5 points. Fellow championship contenders Ashley Haigh-Smith and British co-driver Craig Parry (Castrol Ford Fiesta R2) are seventh with 26,5 points after following up third place in the season opener with a disappointing 10th place in Mpumalanga as a result of technical issues.
Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota RunX) are also championship contenders but failed to finish the Sasol Rally after a fine second place in the Total Rally and now find themselves in a lowly eighth place in the standings with 21 points
Toyota leads the manufacturers’ championship with 187points, ahead of VW (137,5 points) and Ford (126 points).
The Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally, round three of the 2013 SA National Rally Championship, takes place in the Bapsfontein area on 31 May and 1 June.