document : Cronje and Houghton dominate in thrilling start to 2011 SA Rally Championship

Cronje and Houghton dominate in thrilling start to 2011 SA Rally Championship
information supplied by: SA Rally Internet 26 March 2011

Cronje and Houghton dominate in thrilling start to 2011 SA Rally Championship

The 2011 South African Rally Championship got off to a high-powered start on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast this afternoon when 38 cars in five classes set off from the Arbour Crossing Shopping Centre in Amanzimtoti on the first day of the two-day Total Tour Natal Rally.

After the day’s five special stages, four short gravel stages followed by a night-time tarmac stage in the Arbour Crossing parking area, it was privateers Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton who led in a class S2000 Sasol Ford Fiesta according to the provisional results. The Gauteng pair completed the 37 km of high-speed stage racing in a time of 24 minutes 59,2 sec. Second 22,8 sec behind was the factory BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo of former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries, who in turn were just 5,5 sec in front of defending champions and VW team-mates Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in another class S2000 Polo Vivo.

It was a stunning and totally dominant performance by Cronje and Houghton, who won all five stages (they shared the final stage with Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee in a Castrol Toyota Auris) in their first rally together and in a brand new car.

Fourth overall and in the premier S2000 class were Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and German co-driver Nicolas Klinger in a G-Fuel Ford Fiesta, 28,2 sec behind Cronje and Houghton. Johnny Gemmell and Scottish co-driver Drew Sturrock were fifth in a factory Castrol Toyota Auris, three seconds ahead of multiple former champions Jan Habig and new co-driver Robert Paisley in another factory BP VW Polo.

The top 10 was dominated by the two-litre four-wheel drive S2000 cars and was completed by Poulter and Coetzee in seventh place, Mohammed Moosa and Grant Martin in a Total Toyota RunX, stage rally debutant and 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Ralph Pitchford in a BP VW Polo and Jon Williams/Cobus Very in a second Sasol Ford Fiesta.

A notable retirement among the strong entry of 18 S2000 cars entered was the brand new Pirtek Peugeot 207, which retired after the first stage with engine problems. Team-mates Visser du Plessis and Gerhard Snyman failed to make the start after Du Plessis rolled while practising on Thursday. Privateers Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich dropped from sixth at the end of stage two to 17th overall and 15th in class S2000 after incurring a 1 min 50 sec penalty for lateness when they had to fix an electrical problem at the Scottburgh service park.

Leading class A7 for two-wheel drive two-litre cars at the end of the first day are reigning champion Gugu Zulu and co-driver Carl Peskin in a BP VW Polo, finishing well ahead of their only rivals, Rocky Reineke and Christo Ackerman in another VW Polo.

Ashley Haigh Smith and Hilton Auffray head the hotly contested S1600 class in a new Ford Fiesta from Tjaart Conradie and Kes Naidoo in a Toyota Auris and Team Total’s Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee in a Toyota RunX.

The all-woman crew of Megan Verlaque and Lirene du Plessis lead class S1400 in a BP VW Polo Vivo from Ian Young and Herman Groenewald in an Associated Alterations Toyota Yaris.

The action gets underway again at 07.00 on Saturday with another eight gravel stages on the South Coast and a second run through the Arbour Crossing tarmac stage. The rally is expected to finish at around 16.00 and the podium ceremony and prize-giving will take place at 17.30.
Cronje and Houghton dominate in thrilling start to 2011 SA Rally Championship.doc (28kB)

Total Tour Natal Start Saturday.pdf (62kB)

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