Brian Joss –
Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee (Toyota Yaris S2000) are back in the lead of the South African National Rally Championship, after winning the previous round, hosted by the City of Tshwane. The defending champions are now seven points clear of former champion Mark Cronje (Ford) with two rounds to go, the first of which is the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally that takes place on Friday and Saturday September 18 and 19.
The 2015 season initially saw Poulter/Coetzee rack up two second places, with Cronje drawing first blood. A technical problem on Round 3 cost the pair dearly, as Cronje managed a hat-trick of wins. But since then the tables have been turned, with Poulter/Coetzee recording three victories on the trot, and Cronje losing out on any points on the previous round.
“They’ve now each had three wins and two second place finishes,” explains Castrol Team Toyota Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “But Leeroy and Elvéne managed to salvage some points despite the problem we had in Secunda on Round 3, giving them a seven-point buffer at the top of the standings.”
The battle in the Swartland is sure to be spectacular, when these two fierce rivals face off for the penultimate round of the championship. But behind the two championship leaders, the battle for third place is equally intense. Castrol Team Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers (who won this race last), with navigator Carolyn Swan beside him, are currently in third place thanks to a fantastic result on the Imperial Toyota Tshwane Motor Rally.
“We managed to finish second on Round 6,” says De Villiers. “This moved us 7.5 points clear of Gugu Zulu (Volkswagen), so the gap between us and our closest rivals is almost the same as the gap between Leeroy and Mark.”
In Class S1600, Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle have their title defense back on track. The Yato Toyota Etios crew won their class on the previous round, but their nearest rivals are just 2.5 points behind. To make things even more interesting, every one of the top five crews still have a mathematical chance of taking the championship, and Botterill will have to be on top of his game if he wants to fend off the pretenders to his crown.
The Toyota Cape Dealer Rally gets under way on Friday September 18, with two special stages at the Killarney Race Track, before relocating to the Cape Gate Shopping Centre, for two more tarmac stages. On Saturday September 19, the rally relocates to the Swartland area for which it is famous, with nine gravel stages all in the area near Malmesbury.