Brian Joss –
Cronje and Houghton eight points ahead of Team Toyota
The Ford Performance rally team of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton have enjoyed perfect outings in the first two rounds of the 2015 South African National Rally Championship, and have the potential to make it a hat-trick of wins at the Secunda Motor Rally on May 15 and 16.
The Ford Performance pair are the clear favourites for the 2015 season after dominating the championship so far. With 32 points in the bag, Cronje and Houghton are eight points clear of 2014 champions, Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota).
As a new addition to the national rally calendar, the Secunda Motor Rally, which takes place in the Mpumalanga town of Secunda, presents an all-new challenge for the national rally teams, having served as a regional rally last year.
According to the organisers, the rally presents an ‘interesting mix’ of stages, with some featuring fast-flowing roads through mealie fields, and others navigating through quarries and surrounding mining and industrial areas with varying road surfaces.
It’s an extremely compact event, with a total distance of 316 km, including 12 special stages that cover a competitive distance of around 185 km.
“It’s really going to be a mixed bag of stages without the technical forest-type sections that we really enjoy,” says Mark Cronje.
“The route changes a lot during this kind of rally, and the drivers cut the corners through the farmlands with less risk of damaging the vehicle. So the pace is going to be very fast and extremely tight at the top. Our aim will be to maintain a steady pace, continue our current form and hopefully score a hat-trick of wins.”
The team has fitted a new engine to the Class S2000 Fiesta in preparation for the Secunda round, which ensures they can extract the maximum from the car and counter the onslaught from arch-rivals Toyota as they attempt to break the Ford Performance stranglehold on the series.
Rally headquarters and the service park are based at the Lake Umuzi waterfront complex on the southern outskirts of Secunda.
On Saturday the teams face five stages and a repeat of the short 3.7km special to wrap up the action.