Brian Joss –
Third overall for Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan
It was a hard-fought battle, but Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee won the 2015 Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth, round five of the South African National Rally Championship, making it two wins in a row for the resurgent defending champions. Poulter/Coetzee’s Toyota Yaris S2000 never missed a beat, and the same can be said of the sister car crewed by Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan, who finished third overall.
“It was a fantastic weekend for us,” beamed an exuberant Glyn Hall, Team Principal of Castrol Team Toyota, after the event. “Of all the rallies in the season, this is the one the drivers want to win most of all. The Longmore Forest stages have a reputation as the toughest on the rally calendar, and Leeroy showed his mettle by winning the longest of them despite the heavy rains that had soaked the stage.”
Day one of the 2015 VW Rally saw Poulter/Coetzee open a handy lead of 35.8 seconds over second-place crew and current championship leaders, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta), after six stages. Day two dawned grey and rainy, and it quickly became clear that the remainder of the event would be run in extremely testing conditions. As the heavens opened over the Eastern Cape, Poulter managed to control his lead at the head of the field, holding off a hard-charging Cronje in the final forest stage of the event.
With six stages scheduled for the day, it looked as if the final showdown would happen at the Port Elizabeth Oval Track, but the heavy rains completely soaked the super special stage which was to be the scene of stages 11 and 12, bringing the 2015 Volkswagen Rally to a premature end. This meant that Poulter/Coetzee effectively won the rally in the Longmore Forest, closing the gap to championship leaders, Cronje/Houghton, by another four points. The Castrol Team Toyota Crew are now just nine points adrift in the championship, with three rounds remaining.
For Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan, in the second Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000, the Volkswagen Rally offered an opportunity to move into third place in the championship, and that is exactly what they did by finishing third overall in the event, three spots ahead of their nearest championship rivals, Gugu Zulu and Hilton Auffray (Volkswagen Polo).
“Giniel and Carolyn drove extremely well, often matching the stage times set by the crews ahead of them,” said Hall of De Villiers/Swan’s performance. “Their pace on this event was brilliant, and showed that they are capable taking the fight to any other competitor in the field.”
In Class S1600, for front-wheel-drive vehicles with engines of 1,600 cc, Matthew Vacy-Lyle and navigator Schalk van Heerden (Toyota Etios S1600) finished in second place, just behind the VW Polo of Paul Franken and Henry Kohne. Current championship leaders and defending champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle was forced to retire from the rally on day one, when they experienced transmission problems.
The next round in the 2015 championship is the Cullinan Motor Rally, which takes place on August 14 and 15. As round 6 of the 8-round championship, the Cullinan Motor Rally promises to be pivotal in the decision of the final outcome of the season.