Brian Joss –
The Ford Performance rally team of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton will be starting the Bela-Bela Motor Rally on June 19 in the Limpopo Province in a confident mood. They have enjoyed a clean sweep of the results thus far in the 2015 South African National Rally Championship.
The pair, in their pace-setting S2000 Ford Fiesta, has been untouchable this year, and is hoping to wrap up the first half of the season with a perfect record of four wins from four events. With a current tally of 48 points, they are currently 19 points clear of their closest rivals, defending champions Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota).
“We’ve had a dream start to this year with a perfect set of results,” says Mark Cronje. “It’s been tough out there, particularly on the wet and muddy Sasol Rally, but Robin and I have had the pace and consistency to make it count.
“It’s fantastic heading into the fourth round with an unbeaten record, and we’re hoping for another great result as we aim for our third championship title.”
The rally takes place on June 19 and 20 in Bela-Bela (formerly Warmbaths) in Limpopo. According to the organisers, the rally retains its compact and easily accessible format centred around the rally headquarters at the Forever Resort and service park in the historic town.
The teams will have the benefit of a two-pass reconnaissance run of the route on Thursday June 18(today), followed by scrutineering at the Bela-Bela Waterfront.
Indications are that the route will once again be tricky and challenging in places, and will feature the popular special stage run through the Bela-Bela township on Friday.
“The Bela-Bela Rally is very similar to the previous event in Secunda,” Cronje says. “The roads are very sandy and loose, and also extremely tight and twisty through the trees and forests. It’s not really the kind of rally we enjoy, but the team gave us some extra power for the Fiesta last time out and we were able to use this to great effect and secure the win.
“Our aim is to have a clean run through this event and then head into the second half of the season with a really strong foundation and build on our championship lead.”
The action kicks off on Friday with a ceremonial start at the Bela Mall in Mark Street leading into the four stages lined up for the day.
Following the overnight break, the rally continues on Saturday with the first of the remaining six stages.