POULTER DOES IT AGAIN ON SASOL RALLY

Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee dominated the 25th Sasol Rally, leading from start to finish in their Toyota Gazoo SA Yaris S2000. Held in hot and dusty conditions in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, the 2014 champions took a firm hold from the first stage, building an overnight lead of 29 seconds over their Gazoo Racing teammates Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Toyota pair in spite of winning twelve stages however, as they were stuck in De Villiers’ dust on the opening day, while a rear window was broken on day two, filling the car with dust. Poulter and Coetzee join an illustrious list of multiple Sasol Rally winners over the past decade and a half.

De Villiers bore the brunt of Toyota’s bad luck, needing a gearbox change on day 1 after a front differential failed. The crew were a minute late out of service (after replacing a gearbox in 29 minutes) and incurred a 10 second penalty; on day two, they lost a minute and forty seconds after hitting a rock which broke a wheel in stage 11, and ended any hope they harboured of challenging for the top step of the podium. They set the fastest time on two stages, giving Toyota a clean sweep of the timesheets.

The final step of the podium saw the first-ever appearance of a S1600 car. Double champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy Lyle (Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2) claimed the final step after a storming drive over the 14 stage, 221km route. They was lucky though, for Wilro Dippenaar and Kesevan Naidoo held sway until slowed with clutch problems and a huge time loss of 8 minutes after leaving the road in stage 11. They fought back to a solid 4th place finish.

Theuns Joubert and Mari van der Walt (Salom Group Toyota Auris) recovered from a lowly eighth after suffering two punctures on the opening day. Paulus Franken and Pierre Arries (Manitou Group Volkswagen Polo R2) and Andrew Heine and Lloyd Brady (VW Polo R2) completed the S1600 podium after ending respectively 6th and 7th overall.

Muna Singh Jr and Jasmeen Singh from Zambia won the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship, bringing their Subaru Impreza STi home 8th overall after a solid drive. AC Potgieter and Tommy du Toit (Lake Umuzi VW Polo R2) ended 9th overall, followed by Luke Botha and Janine Lourens in their Force Fuel Ford Fiesta S2000. Botha was an early casualty on day one, retiring in stage two with broken steering. It was Botha’s first outing in the Ford, as well as Lourens’ first outing in a Super 2000 car. They shot up the timesheets as they got to grips with the car, setting the fourth fastest stage time on a couple of occasions.

Ernie van der Walt and Greg Godrich were the first casualties, rolling their Vecto Toyota Yaris into a ball of scrap just 1.7km into the rally. They walked away from the wreck unharmed, as did Richard Leeke and Henry Kohne after rolling their ATS Ford FiestaR2 through the flying finish on the penultimate stage.

11th overall and the second ARC finisher were Kenyans Don Smith and Bob Kaugi in their Subaru, while Lee Rose and Tommy Coetzee won the Historic class in their 1978 Ford Escort Mk 2.

Other casualties included Ashley Haigh Smith and Niall Burns who put their Ford Fiesta R2 off the road in stage 20, while Chris Coertse and Robbie Coetzee dumped their Electrothread Toyota Etios into the trees for 20 minutes in stage 10 stage.

Sasol Energy presented a number of awards to officials from the event, who have been involved since its inception in 1992.

The 3rd round of the SA National Rally Championship is the Secunda Rally on 20 and 21 May.