Castrol Team Toyota in four-way title fight at Polokwane
The penultimate round of the 2014 South African National Rally Championship, the Polokwane Motor Rally, takes place on October 17 and 18 – and with four crews vying for the championship title, it is sure to be a spectacular battle. Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee currently lead the title chase by 31 points over their fellow Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000 crew Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan.
Poulter is currently on 124 points, with Fekken on 93. Just 5.5 points further back are defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in their Ford. The Volkswagen crew of Hans Weijs (Netherlands) and Bjorn Degandt (Belgium) are in fourth, 39.5 points behind Poulter.
"With a win on the Cullinan Rally and a second place on our home event in the Cape, the momentum is with us," says Team Principal Glyn Hall. “But we know that Mark will be pushing hard, so this is going to be a big battle. It is also all about the maths, and we don’t have to win the last two events to take the championship – we’ve just got to score decent points.”
Dakar legend Giniel de Villiers, with navigator Greg Godrich beside him in the Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000, claimed a maiden rally victory on Round 6 of the championship. Despite bagging 25 points on the event, De Villiers is currently 6th in the championship on 69 points, and cannot possibly overtake Poulter. With that said, he will be pushing hard to follow his first victory with another good result in Polokwane.
In Class S2000 Challenge, for older spec S2000 rally cars, it is PZN Panelbeaters’ Wilro Dippenaar who leads the championship, in his ex-works Toyota Auris. With Kesavan Naidoo reading his notes, the pair are 5.5 points clear of Piet Bakkes and Shaun Visser in their Toyota RunX.
For Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle the Class S1600 championship – for front-wheel-drive rally cars with engines up to 1600cc – is within touching distance. The Yato-supported Toyota Etios R2 crew won the first four rallies of the year, before experiencing difficulties on Round 5 at Cullinan. They bounced back with a fifth victory on the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, and currently lead the championship by 49 points.
With 50 points on offer between the last two events of 2014, it is highly unlikely that the second-placed crew of Chad van Beurden and Nico Swartz (Volkswagen Polo) will be able to deny Botterill’s championship.
In the manufacturers’ standings, Toyota has amassed 555 points to date. This is 102.5 more than Volkswagen, in second place. Ford is currently on 337.5 points, 217.5 behind Toyota.
The Polokwane Motor Rally, Round 7 of the 8-round championship, kicks off with a parade through the city starting at 11:00 on Friday 17 October. This is followed by five gravel stages and one short tarmac stage, offering a race distance of 70 km on Day One. Day Two, Saturday 18 October, features four gravel and one tarmac stage, with a distance of 105 km – bringing the total rally distance to 175 km.