Local rally drivers can cash in

Bobby Cheetham

ALGOA Rally Club launched its R50k Rally Challenge at a glittering function in Port Elizabeth.

The event at Cubana on the beachfront, was attended by reigning champion Mark Cronje who drives the all-conquering S2000 Ford Dealer Team Fiesta.

Cronje has accumulated a full-house score of 50 points in his quest for a second successive title.

What is the challenge all about? R50k is the value of the prize (R50000) for the winner of six rounds of the Algoa Rally Club’s rally competition for the year.

The prize is made up of rally hardware to the value of R50000 including a VW Polo Vivo shell with a factory-built FIA specification safety roll cage and carefully prepared by GMP Motorsport for rally purposes.

Together with this comes a full car-size gazebo printed in the challenge logo, sponsored by Cape Fabric Engineering, as well as a sizeable contribution from Team GC Diesel Racing towards the whole package.

And history was made at the regional rally which started in Uitenhage.

Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and Johnny Gemmell finished first and second in the regional championship Ocean Basket Rally in Port Elizabeth to give the new Toyota Yaris S2000 rally car its first ever victory anywhere in the world. Poulter and co-driver Elvene Coetzee won four of the seven special stages and teammates Gemmell and Carolyn Swan won one.

Third were Henk Lategan and Barry White in a factory Volkswagen Polo.

“This was not about winning a regional rally, this was an important opportunity for us to test the changes and improvements we’ve made to the rally Yaris in preparation for the next round of the South African rally championship, the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally on May 31 and June 1,” said Castrol Toyota team principal Glyn Hall.

“Winning this rally and finishing 1-2 ahead of the three factory VW Polos in their own backyard was a bonus. We needed to test the cars under proper racing conditions and the regional rally provided these.”

Both Poulter, currently second in the SA championship, and Gemmell, who is sixth, were happy with their cars and reported that the new developments worked well.

“There is a definite improvement in performance,” said Gemmell.

Poulter was full of praise for the team. “This is a great result for the team who have worked really hard to get the brand new Yaris rally car to the level it’s at in just its third event. We’ve made great progress and this give us a lot of confidence for the next round of the national championship.”

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