Brian Joss –
With two second-place finishes on the opening rounds of the 2015 South African National Rally Championship, Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee are firmly in second place in the season standings. But to successfully defend their 2014 title, the pair will have to dig deep for a win on Round 3, the Secunda Motor Rally.
This is a new event on the National Rally calendar, though the area has been utilised for regional events in the past. The Secunda Motor Rally takes place this weekend, with six stages on Friday, 15 May; and six more on Saturday, 16 May.
While the event may offer unfamiliar territory to the crews, there is no doubt that Castrol Team Toyota will pull no punches in the title fight with former champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford), who currently lead the championship.
“We have prepared well for this event,” explains Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “The team had a very successful test session, and we made a number changes to the setup of the Toyota Yaris S2000 cars. Not only to ensure that the cars handle well on the terrain we expect in Secunda, but also so that the drivers are confident in the handling.”
Poulter/Coetzee currently trail Cronje/Houghton by eight points, and with sixteen points on offer for a win, it is still too early to make any championship predictions. Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers, who is paired with navigator Carolyn Swan, is currently in fifth place in the championship, after failing to score significant points due to an engine problem on the Sasol Rally, which was Round 2 of the championship.
In Class S1600, for front-wheel-drive rally machines with engines of 1,600 cc, it is Matthew Vacy-Lyle and navigator Schalk van Heerden who are currently flying the flag for Toyota, in their Fragram-supported Toyota Etios. The pair recorded a second place on the opening round of the season, with a third place on Round Two. This leaves them just seven points behind current championship leaders Paul Franken and Henry Kohne, in a Volkswagen Polo.
Defending Class S1600 champions, Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle, had a tough start to the 2015 season. They managed a third place on Round 1, but failed to score points on Round 2 after mechanical problems forced them to retire their Yato-supported Toyota Etios S1600 machine. They are currently fourth in the season standings, but with six rounds to go, they may still be able to regain the momentum with which they finished the 2014 season.
The Secunda Motor Rally event comprises 185 km of special stage distance, all on gravel, and is sure to be a spectacular battle between Castrol Team Toyota and the Ford Performance Team once again.