Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee dominated the Volkswagen Rally, the 4th round of the South African Rally Championship, powering their Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris S2000 to a comfortable 1 minute 51 second victory after winning 8 of the twelve stages.

Run in the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage areas of the Eastern Cape, the 2014 Championship pairing left their team-mates in their wake over the breathtakingly fast stages run high in the mountains of the Longmore Forest.

Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan, in the second factory Toyota Yaris won four stages on their way to second place overall.  It was Toyota’s 4th consecutive 1-2 finish in the 2016 SA Rally Championship.  The result would have been far closer had De Villiers not had a puncture in Stage 10 after hitting a rock along a fast straight ten kilometres from the end, on top of suffering intercom failure on two of Friday’s stages.

“Carolyn was shouting the notes, but I couldn’t always hear if she said ‘five’ or ‘four’, and couldn’t commit to the corners.  We lost too much time on Friday”, said the former Dakar winner.

Poulter also had a solid dose of luck: In Saturday’s opening stage, Poulter and Coetzee were pushing hard to build on their 20 second overnight lead, when, with 1 km left, on a flat-out fifth gear corner, they spun and hit a bank.  The Yaris reared up, crashed down on Poulter’s side and stalled.  16 seconds were lost before the undamaged Yaris fired up and crossed the finish line,

“It was difficult running first on the road on both days”, said Coetzee at the finish.  “The roads are slippery and we had a couple of moments, including dodging cows in stage 3.  I definitely aged a year on this year’s VW Rally”!

Third overall and first in class S1600 was Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy Lyle in their Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2 after near faultless run.  In the latter stages of the event, the Etios hit gearbox problems that the crew thought would be alright until the end.  In the penultimate stage, the Etios was stuck in 4th gear, limping uphill with Botterill slipping the clutch to maintain momentum but they made it to the finish to record their 4th consecutive win of the season.

AC Potgieter/Tommy du Toit (Lake Umuzi Volkswagen Polo R2) ended a superb 4th overall and second in class S1600, suffering from rear brake failure in Stage 9 after a stone punctured a pipe.

Richard Leeke/Henry Kohne (P1 Nutrition/ATS Ford Fiesta R2) completed the front-wheel drive podium.  The Ford pair suffered a misfire throughout the event and complete brake failure in stages 7 and 8, which were run without a service break.  They backed off in the final loop of stages to ensure their first finish in three outings.

Chris Coertse/Greg Godrich (Electrothread Toyota Etios R2) ended 6th overall and 4th in class, claiming a stage win along the way.  The final finisher was Paulus Franken/Pierre Arries in their Manitou Volkswagen Polo R2.  The Cape Town pairing retired with a broken sideshaft before the first corner of stage 2.  Running Saturday’s stages under Superally rules, they set competitive times but could not overcome their 20 minutes of penalties.

Leading retirements included Luke Botha/Barry White in their Force Fuel Ford Fiesta S2000, who dropped out of 4th place in stage 9 with a broken driveshaft.

Ernie van der Walt/Gerhard Snyman (Vecto Toyota Yaris S2000) left the road in stage ten when they ran wide and landed in a ditch, unharmed but immobile.

Andrew Heine/Lloyd Brady (Heinesport VW Polo) suffered a broken tie-rod in stage 8, coming to rest on the edge of a precipice.  “I wasn’t in control after that happened”, he related, pointing to the damaged suspension.

Ashley Haigh Smith/Niall Burns retired their AHS Racing Ford Fiesta R2 after landing on a rock in stage two, while George Smalberger/Chris Brand (Shield Car Care VW Polo R2) exited the event on the open section en route to Saturday’s first stage after suffering differential failure.

The 5th round of the SA Rally Championship is the Heidelberg Rally, a brand new event on 19 and 20 August.

The Toyota crews celebrate their S2000 1-2 finish

Image by David Ledbitter