Team Toyota reigns at rainy VW Rally

Gugu Zulu's VW Polo
The Volkswagen/ Sasol racing service crew repaired Gugu Zulu’s VW Polo after stage two in time for the next stage. Team Volkswagen/Sasol Racing were awarded the manufacturers award. Photo: Greg Stewart

Severe weather and tough and very wet driving conditions resulted in a shortened VW rally with only 10 stages of 12 completed due to the course being flooded.

The rally started in Uitenhage but covered Port Elizabeth and surrounds as far as Buffelshoek near Jeffreys Bay.

There were also stages hosted at the Aldo Scribante Raceway in PE and the PE oval race track.

The 2015 edition proved to be a true test of endurance for both vehicles and drivers with only 15 finishes out of 50 odd vehicles that pulled out of the starting gate on Friday.

Gugu Zulu finished in overall 7th place on home turf with a hair-raising accident that almost saw them out of the race on day one. After a good start on stage one, he crashed on stage two and was fortunate to finish it at all.

The Volkswagen/ Sasol racing service crew must be give its dues.

Watching them in action, repairing Zulu’s VW Polo after stage two where they repaired some significant damage in time for the next stage, was impressive.

Team Volkswagen/Sasol Racing were deservedly awarded the manufacturers award.

The VW brand did, however, maintain momentum in the S1600 class with Paul Franken and Henry Kohne (VW Polo) once again finishing in style upfront in their class after disappointing finishes in the previous two events.

This win in the S1600 class sets the stage for a fiercely contested class with only three events remaining this year.

The weekend however belonged to Team Toyota who dominated with a double podium first and third place.

Leeroy Poulter and Elve’ne Coetzee took on the National Rally Champs leader Mark Cronje with maximum points this outing, while Geniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan ended a tidy third to climb up the National Rally Champs rankings.

Mathew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden wrapped up the Toyota rout with a second place in the S1600 class.

Poulter’s win sees a possible challenge for top honours in the S200 drivers championships.

Only nine points separate the two teams and there are three races remaining.

The only real challenger for top spot over the weekend came in the form of a Ford Fiesta, with a well deserved overall second place for Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton.

They finished just 27.2 seconds off the pace at the end of day two.

The Ford team also gets kudos for pulling three stage wins back from the marauding Team Toyota.

Cronje has now finished with three first places and two second places out of five races this year, and has been the most consistent performance in the 2015 championships.

source: Crocotts Mail, Grahamstown

Factory teams face up for 2009 SA rally season

The 2009 Sasol SA Rally championship promises to be another humdinger between the VW and Toyota factory teams in a battle that will be fought from March until the final round in October. The South African motor industry is part of the international motoring community but despite financially challenging times has put on a brave face and fielded highly competitive teams.

A healthy 35 cars should be chasing the various championships, the field boosted irregularly by another dozen cars as they dip in and out of the championship as funds allow. Heading the race for the overall title chase that will start on Friday, March 13 with the Tour Natal will be the three-car VW Polo trio of defending champions Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries, 2007 titleholders Jan Habig/Douglas Judd and 2006 champs Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson

A healthy 35 cars should be chasing the various championships

. VW finished the 2008 season with a 1-2-3 – doing that again will be tough.

Toyota spent 2008 re-building its team after Serge Damseaux retired at the end of 2007 and developing an S2000 Auris. There were two unexpected but very welcome victories. Fekken and Arries, who won four times in 2008, have a new car to defend their title, with Habig and Kuun making do with what they had, but refurbished.

In the Toyota camp, Johnny Gemmell/Peter Marsh and Mark Cronje/Robert Paisley will take the fight to VW. The Toyota teams were ultra-competitive in 2008 but prone to mistakes and niggling mechanical issues

Toyota spent 2008 re-building its team after Serge Damseaux retired

. The Auris, launched late in the year, showed it had the pace to fend off the Uitenhage challenge and this is where the real action will be this season – a five-way fight for an overall win on every outing.

Both brands have a number of S2000 private entries to add points towards the Manufacturers’ championship, won by Toyota these past 11 years. Leading them will be JP Damseaux and new co-driver Andre Vermeulen in their re-shelled Toyota RunX. Damseaux had his first career win in 2008.

He’ll be up against Fernando Rueda/Dave Lewkowicz in a new S2000 RunX. They were third overall on a recent Regional event that was won by Damseaux. Japie van Niekerk/Robin Houghton will return in another S2000 RunX. Van Niekerk finished third overall on his first outing in S2000 last year in KZN and became one of the season’s most consistent points-scorers.

VW has Theuns Joubert/Hennie Botes in a new S2000 Polo as well as the Rally Chicks, Lola and Megan Verlaque in the ex-Williams Polo as and when their African championship campaign allows them a local outing.

OUT OF THE WILDERNESS

Joubert is still relatively new to rallying and his progress will be watched. The Rally Chicks, on the other hand, were fourth overall in the recent Tanzanian Rally.

Class A7 will be back after a year in the wilderness led by defending champions Chris de Wit and Dean Redelinghuys in their RunX. The KZN pair are always there or thereabouts and should start the year with a bang on home soil but their biggest threat will come from Evan Hutchinson and new co-driver Elvene Coetzee.

They in turn will have young hotshot Stevan Wilken and Greg Gericke in a brand-new VW Polo in their mirrors. Wilken has been quick in the lower classes, if a little hairy.