Words: Roadworx Communications
The Toyota Cape Rally on September 19/20 is going to be another fight-back session for reigning rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton, whose topsy-turvy season continues to frustrate the most successful rallyists of the current decade.
Photo credit: Eric Buijs
With the 2012 and 2013 championships behind their name and a ‘podium’ in 2011, there is no doubt that the pair in the Ford Dealer Team Fiesta S2000 has the pace to beat all-comers, and their objective on the Cape Town event is to do just that. Currently in third place on the championship log and 30.5 points behind the leaders, the pair certainly isn’t thinking of throwing in the towel anytime soon.
Having recorded a rare DNF on the opening round, and the current log leaders required to drop seven points (their worst result to date), the reigning champions are in fact within one victory of the lead.
Explains Cronje, a veteran of nearly six full seasons in the top class of local rallying: “With 25 points for a win, the results of one rally can still cause a major shift in the points standings. So we’re going to get our heads down from the beginning of the first stage in Cape Town and give it our all – both for our fans, and the Ford dealers of South Africa who make this campaign possible.”
Cronje/Houghton finished fifth on the Cullinan Rally last month, a damaged gearbox on the opening stage costing them dearly when they overstayed their welcome in the service park (despite a valiant effort by the service crew, which saw a gearbox changed in 25 minutes) and incurred a time penalty. With the short nature of the event, they were unable to haul in the cars ahead of them and in fact a stripdown after the event revealed that the engine was significantly down on power.
Three rounds remain (and therefore a maximum haul of 75 points) in the 2014 championship and after the Cape Town event in a weeks’ time, South Africa’s most sophisticated dirt road racers head to Limpopo for the Polokwana Rally and then back to Gauteng.
“Our Fiesta, #24, will be in perfect shape by the time we get to Cape Town and the power problem has been addressed. We won this event last year in tricky conditions and once again it is going to be maximum attack come Friday at midday,” said Cronje, who remains positive about his chances of a championship hat-trick. His record so far this year includes two victories and the fastest times in nearly 40 percent of the special stages, so his confidence is well-founded.