VICTORY on the recent Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape gave reigning South African champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton a smidgeon of breathing space at the top of this year’s national rally championship log.
Going into the Eastern Cape event, Cronje and Houghton, in the Dealer Team Ford Fiesta S2000, held a one point lead over veteran former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley in the Basil Read Ford Fiesta S2000. The two teams dominated the weekend and the Cronje/Houghton win stretched the gap to five points.
For Cronje and Houghton it was their third win of the season with the other victory going to Habig and Paisley. The 25 point gap between Habig/Paisley and third placed Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan, in the Castrol Toyota Yaris S2000, amply illustrates the domination the two Ford crews have exercised so far this season.
A podium finish lifted former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich, in the Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000, into fourth in the overall championship with the pair trailing Gemmell and Swan by 2.5 points. For De Villiers, who will again spearhead the Imperial Toyota Hilux challenge at next year’s Dakar Rally, and Godrich it was their best result of the season.
A class win on the VW Rally took Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray (Team Total Toyota Auris) into fifth in the overall championship with the Cape crew now leading the S2000 Challenge for earlier specification four-wheel drive cars.
Damseaux moves into a three point lead ahead of Gugu Zulu (VW Sasolracing Polo) in the driver’s championship with Mohammed Moosa next up in another Team Total Toyota Auris.
Auffray leads the S2000 Challenge co-driver standings ahead of veteran Andre Vermeulen, who sits alongside Moosa, and Charl Peskin who shares the VW Sasolracing Polo with Zulu. Peskin missed an event earlier in the season. Zulu and Peskin dropped out of the VW Rally with a broken gearbox on the second day. It was their first retirement in two seasons.
The VW Rally also saw a change in the pecking order in the 1600 category for two-wheel drive cars.
A win for Clint Weston and Christoff Snyders (Citroen C2) took them into a 4.5 point lead over Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit in the Toyota Etios.
The category is, however, developing into a closely fought affair with 6.5 points separating the first four crews. Only two points separate Himmel and Du Toit from veteran Craig Trott and Janine Lourens in the ageing Team Total Toyota RunX, and Matthew Vacy-Lyle and 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 Gauteng Rally on August 16 and 17.