Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee in action on the Sasol Rally

Image by David Ledbitter

Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee may have won the opening two rounds of the SA Rally Championship, but they had to fend off their team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan in an all-Toyota showdown which is set to continue on the Secunda Rally, round three of the series taking place over 14 superbly prepared stages around the Mpumalanga Highveld town on 20th and 21st May.

Lady luck plays a bigger part in rallying than in any circuit racing discipline, and she deserted the 2009 Dakar winner on last month’s Sasol Rally.  Not only did De Villiers endure a time penalty as the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA squad whipped out the gearbox on the opening day, he suffered a flat tyre that cost him 100 seconds and it was game over for the #3 Yaris S2000.

Poulter and Coetzee cannot afford to relax for a moment, as they chase a hat-trick of victories, mindful of their Secunda debut last year which saw the 2014 championship pairing scrape a 7th place finish together.

Turning the tables will be uppermost in De Villiers’ mind as he strives to bank his second rally victory.

Waiting in the wings is a trio of hungry privateer S2000 racers looking to see if the factory Toyota squad will trip up.  Heading the charge is Namibian Wilro Dippenaar and his Cape Town-based co-driver Kesevan Naidoo in their PZN Panelbeaters Ford Fiesta S2000.  Third in the early championship standings, Dippenaar has put in some solid performances this year and a maiden podium is very much on the cards.

Also chasing a podium is Free State student Ernie van der Walt in his Vecto Petroleum Toyota S2000.  He may be a little more circumspect this time out after rolling out of the Sasol Rally just 1.7km into the event, and he will have a new co-driver to boot.  Gerhard Snyman slips into the hot seat after the retirement of Greg Godrich, so all things considered, van der Walt will do well to equal his career best result of 4th, earned on the Goldfields Rally in March.

Luke Botha makes his second national rally appearance in his Force Fuel Ford Fiesta S2000, also with a new co-driver in the cockpit.  Barry White, the experienced co-driver who has done duty for Henk Lategan and Mark Cronje steps into the Ford.   Botha’s debut was fraught, a steering bolt falling off the car early on.  Once up to speed under Superally rules on day two, he planted his Fiesta in the top four on the time sheets, so if all goes well this time around, the menacingly liveried Fiesta should also be fighting for a podium place.

Theuns Joubert and Mari van der Walt compete in class NRC4 with an older specification S2000 Toyota Auris backed by Salom Agri.  They are currently 6th on the championship points log and will be in contention for a top five finish.

Super 1600

The class for 1600cc, two-wheel drive cars has seen the double and defending champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy Lyle dominate in their Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2.  Such is their pace, they made a small slice of SA Rally history on the Sasol Rally, becoming the first S1600 team to finish on the overall podium with third place after a faultless drive.  With two wins from two starts, they are well on their way to a third title.

Second in the standings, 11 points adrift, is Paulus Franken and former SA Co-Driver’s Champion Pierre Arries in their Manitou Group Volkswagen Polo R2, with two podium finishes under their belts.  The car will be fitted with a new engine for the Secunda Rally and they are hoping to stop the rampant Botterill.

Ashley Haigh-Smith and Niall Burns

Image by David Ledbitter

Third on the log is Richard Leeke and Henry Kohne in their ATS Ford Fiesta R2. The teen claimed a well-judged 2nd in the Free State, but blotted his copybook by rolling out of 2nd place on the Sasol Rally. They return with a lot to prove.

Andrew Heine and rookie co-driver Lloyd Brady (this will be just his third ever rally) claimed their first finish in over a year last month and ended on the podium as a bonus. With their VW Polo’s reliability now sorted, fans can expect another top result from the young Port Elizabeth crew.

All eyes will be on local lad AC Potgieter and Tommy du Toit in their Lake Umuzi/De Stroom Guest Lodge Volkswagen Polo R2. 4th last time out, the Trichardt youngster will be under huge pressure to deliver a podium finish in front of his friends and family. He has the ability, and needs a helping of luck to deliver.

Chris Coertse and Robbie Coetzee (Electrothread Toyota Etios R2) have been on-song this year, and but for mishaps along the way, would be higher up the championship rankings. Given a clean run, they too will be podium contenders.

George Smalberger and Chris Brand (Shield Car Care VW Polo R2) have been blighted by electrical problems on both rounds so far. If this is sorted, they should show their real potential and be a top five contender.

Capetonian Ashley Haigh Smith and his Irish co-driver Niall Burns, who flies out for each rally, will hope to turn their season around and bring their quick React Ford Fiesta R2 home with a strong helping of points to boot. A combination of car and driver issues has kept the youngster off the podium so far.

The Secunda Rally will host a round of the Northern Regions Rally Championship on Saturday, and should see Roelof Coetzee/Rikus Fourie in their beautiful Ford Escort Mk 2 take on Natie Booysen/Rudolf Pretorius (Ford Escort Mk 1). Jaco/George Baker (Autozone Toyota Tazz), Nico Nienaber/Gert J Van Rensburg (in a beautifully prepared historic Toyota Corolla Mk 2) and Arnold Neveling/Michelle Lourens will also slug it out for line honours.

Route

The rally weekend starts on Thursday evening with scruntineering at Secunda Toyota. It runs from 18h00 – 21h00 and promises to be a fun-filled evening – mingling with the teams, participating in exciting activities and getting revved up for a weekend of rallying.

The Rally starts at 16h00 on Friday from the service park at Lake Umuzi. The first two stages are on gravel – one in and around the Lake Umuzi area and the other opposite Graceland Casino. Then we join forces with Hoërskool Oosterland for the start of their famous “Wieleskou” and the Graceland Casino Tar Stage. You can expect a mix of tyre squeals, bright lights, a host of entertainment, food and refreshments – a great evening out for the family. The Wieleskou continues on Saturday morning but the rally moves off onto gravel.

The restart on day two is at Lake Umuzi at 06h30. It is packed with nine exciting gravel stages and finishes back at Lake Umuzi with the podium at about 15h30.