Mark Cronje and co-driver Robin Houghton won the Polokwane Rally this weekend to clinch back-to-back South African Rally Championships after successfully defending their title by dominating the season with their Ford Dealer Team Fiesta S2000.
Winning six events out of seven starts this year, with the only other victory going to the Basil Read Fiesta of former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, Ford has stamped its authority on the national rallying scene.
Having started the season’s penultimate event with the narrowest of margins over the Castrol Toyota Yaris pairing of Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee (who retired late on day one with a power-steering problem), Cronje and Houghton eventually managed to open more than one minute and 30 seconds from the other Castrol Yaris of Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan – who themselves were under threat from the Sasolracing Volkswagen Polo of former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries.
“It feels fantastic to wrap it up on the penultimate round of the championship. Our hard work earlier in the season has really paid off and it has been a case of working on every aspect of our performance to ensure the maximum chance of success,” Cronje said afterward.
The Team Total Toyota Auris duo of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray (who won the S2000 challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars) finished fourth ahead of former champion Enzo Kuun and co-driver Douglas Judd in another Sasolracing Polo.
Besides Poulter and Swan, the other notable retirements were defending S2000 Challenge champions Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin, who broke the sub-frame on their Sasolracing Polo and young Henk Lategan and Barry White in a new-specification Polo could also not finish due to a broken steering box.
The South African Rally Championship season finale is the picturesque Garden Route Rally, which happens around the George-Wilderness-Knysna region of the Western Cape, on 15 and 16 November.