Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee fly during the Goldfields Rally

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee led a Toyota Gazoo Racing one-two when they brought their Toyota Yaris S2000 home ahead of team mates Geniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan in the Goldfields Rally yesterday (Saturday, 5 March). Mark Cronje and Barry White brought their Volkswagen Polo S2000 home in third place. The S1600 class went the way of birthday boy Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle in the Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2.

The rally, which was centred on the Phakisa circuit outside Welkom, got underway on Friday afternoon with an 11 km tar stage at Phakisa Freeway. Cronje and White, in their first outing together and in a new car, surprised many when they took the stage win from Poulter and Coetzee with Ernie van der Walt and Greg Godrich (Vecto Petroleum Toyota Yaris S200o) in third. A sort tar stage in the centre of Welkom followed and this time it was Poulter and Coetzee who led the way from Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo (PZN Panelbeaters Ford Fiesta S2000) with Cronje and White in third.

 

Mark Cronje and Barry White

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

Cronje and White showed that, new car or not, they meant business when they won Saturday’s opening stage to open up a 4.9 second lead over Poulter and Coetzee. On the next stage the positions were reversed with Poulter clawing back just under a second of Cronje’s lead and it looked like the rally was going to develop into a fight between the defending champion and the 2014 champion.

Things changed on the next stage however as Cronje’s car developed gearbox problems. The best he could manage on the next two tests was fifth and he had slid down to third in the overall rankings by the time the crews made it back to service after the day’s fourth stage. With Cronje battling it was left to the Toyota Gazoo Racing crews to fight it out for the stage wins. De Villiers and Swan took their first win of the rally on stage five while Poulter and Coetzee took the next.

Cronje’s crew did a fantastic job to change the gearbox in the Volkswagen  in just 26 minutes and it looked like he was back on track in stage seven finishing second behind Poulter but ahead of de Villiers. It was not to be though as the car seemed to lose power in the afternoon heat and it was left to the Toyota crews to fight it out.

Poulter and Coetzee relaxed a little bit which allowed de Villiers and Swan to narrow the gap to 11.3 seconds with two stages left to run but then won the penultimate stage to extend their lead to over 16 seconds with just the final tar stage at Phakisa left to run. Van der Walt and Godrich won that but Poulter and Coetzee did enough to secure overall victory.

Speaking after the event Poulter said, “We backed off a little bit but Geniel closed right up and we had to get going in the last two stages.”

Cronje said, “We have only had the car for two-and-a-half weeks so we are pleasantly surprised. We need to do some work on the engine before the Sasol.”

S2000 Results

Pos Driver / Co-Driver Car Time Gap
1 Leeroy Poulter / Elvene Coetzee Toyota Yaris 01:35:03.5
2 Geniel de Villiers / Carolyn Swan Toyota Yaris 01:35:21.7 00:00:18.2
3 Mark Cronje / Barry White Volkswagen Polo 01:36:03.1 00:00:59.6
4 Ernie van der Walt / Greg Godrich Toyota Yaris 01:36:09.3 00:01:05.8
5 Wilro Dippenaar / Kes Naidoo Ford Fiesta 01:36:30.9 00:01:27.4

Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

In the S1600 class Botterill and Vacy-Lyle won all but three of the stages that made up the rally to come home 36 seconds ahead of Richard Leeke and Henry Kohne (ATS Ford Fiesta R2). Paulus Franken and Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo R2) claimed the final podium position.

Botterill commented, “It’s always great to start the first event of the year with a win.”

The NRC4 class went to Jose de Gouveia and Armand du Toit in their Toyota Run X.