Victory on the recent Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape gave reigning South African National Rally Champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) a smidgeon of breathing space at the top of this year’s national rally championship log.
Going into this Eastern Cape event, Cronje/Houghton and their Dealer Team Ford Fiesta S2000 held a one-point lead over veteran former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley (Basil Read Ford Fiesta S2000). The two Ford teams dominated that weekend as they have thus far in the season, and the Cronje/Houghton comfortably claimed the victory to stretch his Championship lead to five points going into the second half of the season.
For Cronje/Houghton, it was their third win of the year, with Habig/Paisley taking the top honours of the remaining of the four rounds completed. The 25-point gap between Habig/Paisley and third-placed Johnny Gemmell/Carolyn Swan, in the Castrol Toyota Yaris S2000, amply illustrates the domination the two Ford crews have exercised so far this season.
Finishing third overall in last month’s rally lifted former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Greg Godrich (Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000) into fourth place in the overall Championship standings with the pair trailing Gemmell/Swan by 2.5 points.
A Class win on the Volkswagen Rally took Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray (Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000) into fifth place in the overall championship standings with the Western Cape crew now leading the S2000 Challenge Class for earlier specification four-wheel drive cars. Damseaux moves into a three-point lead ahead of Gugu Zulu (Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo Vivo S2000) in the Driver’s Championship with Mohammed Moosa next up in another Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000.
Auffray leads the S2000 Challenge Co-Driver standings ahead of veteran Andre Vermeulen, who sits alongside Moosa, and Carl Peskin who shares the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo Vivo S2000 with Zulu. Peskin missed an event earlier in the season.
Zulu/Peskin dropped out of the Volkswagen Rally with a broken gearbox on Day Two. It was their first retirement in two seasons.
The fourth round of the season also saw a change in the pecking order in the S1600 category for two-wheel drive cars. A win for Clint Weston/Christoff Snyders (Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2 Max) took them into a 4.5 point lead over Thilo Himmel/Armand du Toit in their Toyota Etios R2. The category is, however, developing into a closely fought affair with 6.5 points separating the first four crews. Only two points separate Himmel/Du Toit from veteran Craig Trott and young co-driver Janine Lourens in their Team TOTAL Toyota RunX, and Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk van Heerden in another Toyota RunX.
Toyota enjoys a comfortable 110.5-point lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 377 points to the 266.5 of Volkswagen and the 249.5 of Ford.
Round Five of the Championship is the Ford Dealer Rally on 16 and 17 August in the Cullinan area east of Pretoria, Gauteng.