Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Elvéne Coetzee have won the Sasol Rally.
The pair started strong, despite being first on the road. They managed to stay in touch with early leaders Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) who started an advantageous 8th on the road. Poulter took the outright lead on Stage 4 of the rally.
“The conditions were really tricky,” said Poulter after Day One. “We were at a distinct disadvantage on the first three stages, especially after some early morning rain that made it very slippery in places. But then we were into repeats of those stages, and road conditions were very different and much improved, we could go a lot faster and take the lead.”
Poulter powered his Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000 through the last four stages of the day, and had a 1:52.6 lead by the time the sun set over Sabie. Day Two saw the pair consolidate this lead, despite an early charge by Cronje/Houghton. By the time the dust settled over the forests of the Lowveld, their lead has shrunk marginally to 1:46.5 – more than enough to claim an emphatic second victory on the SASOL Rally.
“We had a bit of a scare in Stage 10,” said Poulter, “We hit a rock and punctured the left front tyre about 8 km from the end of the stage. We couldn’t afford to lose too much time, so decided to push on rather than change the wheel. In the end we lost only 10 seconds in that stage.”
It was a different story for their teammates. Hergen Fekken and Carolyn Swan, in the second Castrol Team Toyota Yaris started in fine form, running in 3rd position after the first three stages. But disaster struck on Stage 4, when the pair had a puncture on the left front of their car. They tumbled to seventh overall as a result.
“We knew it was going to be tough after that,” said the unflappable Fekken. “But we had no choice: We just had to push on and hope for the best.”
His efforts paid off, as the pair ended Day One in fourth overall. They maintained this position throughout Day Two, despite an issue with the rear sub-frame on their Toyota Yaris, which forced them to use only front-wheel drive for the final group of stages.
“Our service crew did an amazing job,” said Fekken after the event. “They kept us going despite the challenges, and we are overjoyed at the result.”
The result in question was a second successive podium finish for Fekken and Swan, as they grabbed third overall.
“I am extremely pleased with the team’s performance on this event,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after the final stage. “This proves beyond any doubt that the Toyota Yaris S2000 is capable of not only winning rallies, but also winning the championship. The service crew also performed exceptionally well in testing conditions – especially with the rain on Day One.”
With this victory, Poulter extends his lead in the overall championship, while Fekken cements second place.
In Class S1600, for front-wheel drive cars with engines of 1600 cc or smaller, Guy Botterill and co-driver Simon Vacy-Lyle stamped their authority on the championship by taking a second successive win in their Yato-sponsored Toyota Etios R2.
The pair grabbed the lead from the start, and won eight of the rally’s 14 special stages. They mixed it up with the faster S2000 cars, and ended with a winning margin of five minutes over Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz (VW Polo).
“The Toyota Etios is amazing! It never let us down and looking back, we could probably have gone even faster,” said Botterill, who now comfortably leads the Class S1600 Championship.
The next round of the championship is Round 3, the PMC Rally, which takes place at the Rallystar facility in Bapsfontein, Gauteng, on 23 and 24 May, 2014.