The town of Heidelberg played host to round five of the 2016 South African National Rally Championship, and was the scene of Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee’s fifth consecutive overall victory.
Brian Joss – The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, in association with Total Quartz crew, had an eventful rally, but eventually drove their Toyota Yaris S2000 to eight stage victories on the 13-stage event, winning the Heidelberg Rally by 01:31.
“We had some mid-stage incidents with spectators and wildlife,” said Poulter after finishing the event at the Heidelberg Mall. “But we were quick enough on the clean stages to ensure a fist place finish.”
Poulter/Coetzee reported no problems with their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Yaris S2000, and made it five wins from as many starts this season.
Teammates Giniel de Villiers and navigator Carolyn Swan started with a bang, winning Stage 5 of the event, though they were hamstrung by thick dust on the closing Stage 6, the final stage of Day One. As a result they ended the opening day twenty seconds behind Poulter/Coetzee, with Ernie van der Walt and navigator Gerhard Snyman (Vecto Petroleum Toyota Yaris S2000) slotting into second place.
Day Two brought new hope for De Villiers/Swan, but disaster struck on the opening stage of the day. The pair suffered a double puncture mid-stage, and while they managed to exit the stage, they were forced to retire the Toyota Yaris S2000.
“As is usual, Giniel and Carolyn had only on spare wheel on board, and when they suffered two punctures on Stage 7, we had to call it a day,” explains Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “While they could theoretically have continued, it would have been a contravention of the rules to travel on the open section with a deflated tyre.”
With De Villiers/Swan out, the podium positions went to Poulter/Coetzee in first place, Van der Walt/Snyman in second, and Theuns Joubert, partnered with Mari van der Walt (Salom Racing Toyota Auris NRC4) completing the podium.
Behind them, the Class S1600 crews were embroiled in another tough battle. So far, 2016 has seen only one winner in the class, namely Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle. All indications were that the Yato Toyota Etios S1600 crew would continue their winning ways, but a misfire in the final two stages robbed them of their fifth consecutive win.
They eventually finished just 14 seconds behind class winner Richard Leeke (Ford Fiesta S1600), but still have a firm grip on the 2016 championship.
Next up on the 2016 rally calendar is the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally – traditionally a truly spectacular event – based in the Swartland around the Western Cape town of Malmesbury. This event will be round 6 of the 7-round championship, and is scheduled for the weekend of 16-17 September.