The South African rally championship took another turn this weekend when Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton won the Rally of South Africa in Kwa-Zulu Natal with their Sasol Racing Ford Fiesta, edging the championship lead away from Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Auris), who finished second overall.
This weekend’s rally continued the story of this year’s championship tussle, which has primarily been dominated by the aforementioned duos. Cronje drew first blood by gaining a 13 second lead on Gemmell after day one, and opened that lead early on the second day. The Castrol Toyota pair managed to tear 10 seconds off the lead on the penultimate stage, but couldn’t catch the Sasol Ford in the finale.
Former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley placed third overall (Basil Read Ford Fiesta) after making up time due to suspension problems and stole the last podium spot from former team mates Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (BP Volkswagen Polo), who looked set for third but were overtaken after a minor error late on day two.
Giniel de Villiers and Celeste Snyders (Imperial Toyota Auris) managed an impressive fifth overall after running in 12th going into the second day, due to powertrain issues. Hein Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (SAC Peugeot 207) placed sixth after making up two places on day two – the pair were outclassed by 18-year old Henk (lLategan’s son) and Barry White (Q8 Oils VW Polo) but the youngster lost his seven second lead to Lategan senior after a late error on day two.
The next round of the championship takes place in the Western Cape for the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally from 13-15 September