The Wheel Deal

Fixing you up with life in the fast lane.
Posted: March 15th, 2013 | By Thomas Falkiner

Cronjé/Houghton Ford Fiesta

The 2013 South African National Rally Championship got off to an eventful start in KwaZulu-Natal last weekend. Trying their best to ignore the scorching heat and shirt-soaking humidity, hundreds of eager race fans invaded the South Coast’s sugar cane plantations to steal a rooster-tailed glimpse of their favourite cars and drivers. Dirt-slinging heroes like Mark Cronjé and Roger Houghton who, right from the get go, displayed the sort of mettle that saw them clinch last year’s championship.

Looking very much the part in their new star-liveried S2000 Ford Fiesta, the duo won four of five stages to finish Friday with a 34-second lead. This incredible form continued through Saturday where they bagged six out of the nine stages run. Blitzing through the final 1.3-kilometre special stage held at the old Durban drive-in, the reigning champs eventually won the event by just over a minute.

Second place went to Jan Habig and Robert Paisley who put up a gallant effort in their Basil Read Ford Fiesta. Taking full advantage of the unusually high attrition rate, third position was scooped up by the Team Total combination of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray in an aging Toyota Auris. The first of the S2000 Challenge cars was followed home by Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee in the all-new Castrol Team Toyota Yaris. Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin secured fifth position in their factory Volkswagen Sasolracing S2000 Challenge Polo.

Proving to be a successful hunting ground for Ford, the 2013 Total Rally was an event that Volkswagen Motorsport will be eager to forget. Thanks to a string of gnarly accidents, the team’s new Sasol-liveried Polo S2000s were never a real threat to the Blue Oval’s dominance. Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries were the first to bend fenders after they ‘went farming’ in Friday’s opening stage. Sustaining heavy damage they could only rejoin the rally on Saturday morning. They eventually finished 18th overall.

Then, while busy fighting for second position in Stage Three, Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson hit a yump at too great a speed. The ensuing end-over-end cartwheel of destruction not only saw the car being written off but also sent its drivers to hospital for observation. Fortunately neither one of them was seriously injured. The teenaged sensation, Henk Lategan, and his co-driver, Barry White, looked like they were on a path of redemption after finishing Friday third overall. But then after clipping a tunnel wall and narrowly escaping a sugarcane-fuelled fire on Saturday morning, the duo was flung down the order. At the end of the rally they finished 13th.

Now it goes without saying that Volkswagen will be hoping to make up for this dismal showing at the upcoming Sasol Rally that takes place in Mpumalanga from 18 to 19 April. While they gear-up for the challenge, you can keep up-to-date with all the latest SA national rally news, pictures, points and developments by clicking on www.rallyworld.net

{Picture Credit: David Ledbitter}



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