Heavy overnight rain that continued into Saturday resulted in rally officials having to cancel six of the day’s seven stages for safety reasons in the season-ending Garden Route Rally in the George area of the Western Cape.
Overall leaders of the eighth and final round of the SA Rally Championship after Friday’s five stages and Saturday’s first stage were newly-crowned 2013 champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (S2000 Ford Dealer Team Fiesta), who have now officially been declared the provisional winners. They won four of the six stages completed, including Saturday’s morning stage.
Second overall, 12.3 seconds behind, were championship runners-up Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris), followed by their Toyota team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, who were a further 24.9 seconds in arrears in a second Yaris. This was the same finish order as at the Friday overnight stop in George.
A distant fourth was the Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo of Enzo Kuun and Douglas Judd, who were 3m12.4s behind the leaders. Fifth was the leading S2000 Challenge car, the Team Total Toyota Auris of Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen (+3 min 58 sec), and sixth were outgoing S2000 Challenge winners Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (VW Sasolracing Polo), who missed out on winning the S2000 Challenge category by 4.7 seconds after a spin on Saturday. They trailed the leaders by over four minutes.
FIVE IN A ROW MILESTONE
Cronje and Houghton’s fifth consecutive rally victory – they wrapped up their second successive championship in the penultimate round in Polokwane last month – was the first time this had been achieved in a single season since 1996 and equalled Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede in 1996, LB Odendaal and Christo Kuun in 1972 and Sarel van der Merwe and Frans Boshoff in 1981 and 1985.
It was also their seventh win of the year out of the eight rounds, equalling the record seven victories in a single season by Van der Merwe and Boshoff in 1980 and 1983 and Damseaux and Bonafede in 1995 and 1996.
It has been a momentous season for Ford, who became only the second manufacturer to win all rounds in a single season for the first time since Audi in 1983. Audi won nine out of nine with the legendary Quattro.
Provisional winners of the S1600 two-wheel drive class were Clint Weston and Christoff Snyders (Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2), who finished an impressive eighth overall in an event of attrition, which saw only 18 of the 31 starters complete Friday’s five stages. They were a comfortable 1m18.9s ahead of Ashley Haigh-Smith and Damian van Ass (Castrol Ford Fiesta R2) and 4m3.6s in front of 19-year-old rally rookie Ernie van der Walt and James Aldridge (Ferodo Ford Fiesta).
In the process, Weston and Snyders clinched the S1600 championship for the year by five points from Craig Trott and Janine Lourens (Team Total Toyota RunX).