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Garden Route Rally 2011

Mark Cronjé and Robin Houghton (S2000 Sasol Ford Fiesta), the form combination in this year’s South African Rally Championship, dominated day one of the inaugural Garden Route Rally, round six in the eight-event series, in the George and Knysna areas on Friday afternoon.
After four gravel special stages covering 62,95 km, three of which they won, they provisionally lead the two-day event by 42,8 seconds from the S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris of Johnny Gemmell and Scottish co-driver Drew Sturrock. Third, a further 51,5 sec in arrears, was the first of the S2000 BP Volkswagen Polos, that of defending champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson.


Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee (Castrol Toyota) were fourth, 1 min 43,7 sec behind the provisional leaders. Championship leader Conrad Rautenbach of Zimbabwe and non-scoring French co-driver Nicolas Klinger (S2000 Green Fuel Ford Fiesta) finished the day fifth, over two minutes in arrears after experiencing brake problems and suffering the disadvantage of being first car on the road. Some consolation for the pair was a win in the first short gravel stage outside George.
Giniel de Villiers and Ralph Pitchford finished sixth in their BP VW Polo, ahead of team-mates Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey (Sasol Ford Fiesta), Heinrich Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (Pirtek Peugeot 207) and Mohammed Moosa and Grant Martin (Total Toyota Auris).
Notable casualties were former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries who were forced to retire their BP VW Polo after completing stage three while lying third overall. They hit a yump at speed and landed heavily halfway through the 18-km stage, damaging the radiators. They completed the stage at reduced speed, but lost all coolant, which led to a seized engine.
Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich (Basil Read Ford Fiesta) finished in an unfamiliar 14th place after experiencing diff problems from stage two onwards. They were also delayed by a herd of cows crossing the road on stage one and by the Ford’s bonnet flying open halfway through stage three.
First of the S1600 two-wheel-drive cars behind the four-wheel-drive machines that occupied the first 14 places was the Total Toyota RunX of Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee in 15th place. They finished just 10,6 seconds ahead of their nearest S1600 rivals, Guy Botterill and Schalk van Heerden (Yato Toyota RunX), who were 16th overall. Third in class and 17th overall were Andy Haigh Smith and James Aldridge (React Ford Fiesta), less than five seconds behind Botterill.
Megan Verlaque and new co-driver Hilton Auffray (BP VW Polo) were the provisional leaders of the S1400 class and finished 25th overall, ahead of the only other competitors in the class, Henk Lategan and Pierre Jordaan (Q8 VW Polo), who were 26th.
Verlaque had a chance to return the favour when Lategan became stuck on the final stage, but her rival sportingly told her to carry on when she was unable to pull him out of the mud. Jordaan was eventually pushed out by another vehicle and completed the day’s route just 22,7 sec behind Verlaque, despite taking 12 minutes’ lateness and incurring a two-minute penalty.
The rally restarts on Saturday at 08h00 from the overnight stop at Simola Estate in Knysna and finishes back at Simola Estate in the afternoon after five gravel special stages.
This year the Garden Route Rally kicks off on 2 November, 2012.

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