Brian Joss –
Ford Performance rally driver Mark Cronje is on the brink of scoring his third South African National Rally Championship next weekend, 16 and 17 October, as the rally circus heads to the Limpopo Province for the final event of the year, the Polokwane Motor Rally.
This will be the second event that Cronje will be partnered with co-driver Gerhard Snyman, after the decision was made leading up to the Toyota Dealer Cape Rally in September for regular navigator Robin Houghton to step aside due to unfavourable weight regulations in Class S2000.
“Gerhard did a good job in Cape Town and is putting everything in to help us win the championship,” Cronje says. “It’s great to still have Robin as an integral part of the team, though, and he continues to play a crucial role in the planning and logistics, as well as writing my pace notes during the recce before the rally.”
During the 2015 season Cronje has claimed four overall wins, including the first three on the trot and, most recently, the Cape Rally. Arch-rival Leeroy Poulter (Toyota) crashed out of this rally, which gifted the Ford team a bit of breathing space heading into the highly anticipated final round.
The championship has been entirely dominated by Cronje and Poulter, who have traded special stage wins and overall victories throughout the year. The Ford ace and double champion currently leads the rankings with four wins to Poulter’s three, and he currently holds a 7.5-point advantage over the Toyota driver as the crews set off for Polokwane.
“It’s great to be leading the championship going into the final event of the year, and we just have to finish third to secure the 2015 title, even if Leeroy wins the rally,” Cronje says. “Accordingly, our focus is on being cool, calm and consistent to get through the weekend without any problems.
“The team has been working hard after the Cape Rally, going through our Fiesta rally car with a fine-tooth comb to ensure we’re in good shape for Polokwane.”
According to Cronje, the first day of the rally will be the trickiest, with the route featuring lots of rocks and trees. Day two is expected to be more open and flowing with fewer hazards.
“Hopefully the weekend goes our way, and we will be able to reward the team and the Ford Performance fans by finishing off this season with the 2015 title firmly in our hands.”
To date 10 drivers have won the South African Rally Championship in a Ford, the most recent being Cronje and co-driver Houghton for two years in succession, in 2012 and 2013.