Polokwane was treated to some high performance rally action over the weekend which saw Ford Performance rally driver Mark Cronjé claiming his third South African National Rally Championship.
The second and third positions on the podium went to Volkswagen Sasol Racing Team Henk Lategan en Barry White and Castrol Toyota Team Giniel de Villiers and Carolyn Swan. Cronje went into the Polokwane Motor Rally as the firm favourite, holding a 7,5 point advantage over 2014 title-holder and championship rival Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Elvéne Coetzee from Team Castrol Toyota.
Cronjé, partnered with co-driver Gerhard Snyman in their Class S2000 Ford Fiesta, simply had to finish third to secure the title, even if Poulter won the rally. The crews faced three action-packed special stages on Friday after the first stage had to be cancelled due to muddy conditions resulting from recent rains.
Friday’s results showed Cronje in the overall third place, 8,8 seconds behind overnight leaders De Villiers and Swan, and Lategan and White. Pouter experienced a broken rim which cost him some time and moving into fourth place which took a lot of pressure off Cronjé.
With the end in sight on Saturday, Cronjé snatched the final two stages with 22,8 seconds in hand over Lategan and 30,4 seconds over De Villiers. Poulter had to settle for fourth, 59,9 seconds behind the Ford crew.
“It was really tricky out there. The pressure was on us not to make a mistake or push too hard and end up with a puncture. It was about trying to strike a balance between keeping it clean and still keeping up the pace. We didn’t give the opposition too much thought so the win was a bonus. What a great end to a really tough year,” Cronjé said during the customary champagne spraying ceremony at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“We couldn’t have scripted a better final rally if we had tried. The car was faultless from start to finish thanks to the marathon effort of our team. They virtually stripped and rebuilt the whole car for the final event, and this victory would not have been possible without them.” Snyman added. This is the 11th time a Ford driver has won the South African Rally Championship.