THE Volkswagen Sasolracing team may have wanted to win their sponsored rally at the weekend in front of enthusiastic home-town supporters, but they put up an outstanding effort by finishing on the podium.
Hans Weijs jnr and Björn Degandt in their Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000 crossed the finish line at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium for third place overall, just ahead of teammates Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin in fourth after the 15 stages.
And to top that achievement, VW also received the manufacturer’s award for the most points scored, while Weijs and Degandt and Henk Lategan and Barry White received the team award for the rally as well.
The rally was won by reigning champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fiesta) who improved their championship position after four rounds to fourth.
“The Longmore Forest stages were just as good as I expected,” Weijs said. “We are doing well in the championship and our goal now is not just to finish on the podium – now we want to win.”
While Degandt and Weijs kept it steady, ending the first day in third place and then maintaining that position through the eight stages of day two, Zulu and Peskin went from sixth at the end of day one to finish in fourth by the end.
“The VW Rally is renowned for being a very testing event – it rates as one of the best in the country,” Zulu said.
“We have some work to do in terms of rhythm inside the car to make it a bit smoother, but the team have provided me with a fantastic car, now we just have to get it all together.”
With two secondfastest stage times, Zulu and Peskin are picking up the pace in their first S2000 season. For Lategan and White the weekend started well, producing the second-quickest time in the opening stage and among the top five in nine of the 15 stages.
But hitting one of many tree stumps in the forest forced them into a ditch and early retirement.
For Cronje and Houghton, it was a comfortable victory in the end to clinch their second in a row after triumphing in the PMC Gauteng Rally in May.
They completed the 15 special stages over a total racing distance of 179km on Friday and Saturday in a time of 1hr 55min 55sec.
Second were arch-rivals and current championship leaders Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris).
They were 1min 30sec in arrears.
Between them, the two top contenders for the championship title that Cronje and Houghton have claimed for the past two years won 14 of the stages with Cronje victorious in 10 and Poulter in 4.
The Toyota pair increased their championship lead to 15.5 points after accumulating 78 points from wins in each of the first two rounds, a seventh place in the PMC Rally, and now second in the Eastern Cape.
Cronje and Houghton scored only 6.5 points in the first two rounds, but have their title challenge back on track with another 50 points for the back-to-back wins.
The next round of the championship is the Cullinan Rally on August 15 and 16. -0 Bobby Cheetham