Words: TOYOTA SA
The final round of the 2015 South African National Rally Championship will be remembered for many things, but by far the overriding element will be the question of who will be the champion for the year. The fight for supremacy has gone right to the final round, with defending champion, Castrol Team Toyota's Leeroy Poulter, squaring off against former double champion Mark Cronje (Ford).
The two have been involved in a season-long battle, with Cronje drawing first blood, winning the first three events on the trot. But then Poulter, campaigning the Toyota Yaris S2000, capitulated by winning the next three rallies. However, the momentum swung back in Cronje's favour on the penultimate round of the season, the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, when Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee crashed out of the event, while Cronje went on to win.
"We've got a mountain to climb in Polokwane," says Castrol Team Toyota Team Principal, Glyn Hall. "Leeroy and Elvéne simply have to win. But even if they manage that, Mark needs to finish lower than third in order for Leeroy to win the championship."
It is a massive task, filled with 'ifs' and 'maybes'. But motorsport is unpredictable at the best of times, and anything can still happen.
For navigator Elvéne Coetzee, however, the season has been another stunning success. After becoming the first female navigator to win the championship in decades last year, she has all but won the navigator's championship for the second year running. With Cronje changing navigators for the last two rounds of the season, there is no-one that can overtake Coetzee anymore.
Castrol Team Toyota's Giniel de Villiers and navigator Carolyn Swan find themselves in fourth place in the championship race, having been overtaken by Volkswagen's Gugu Zulu on the previous round. The points gap between them, however, is only 3.5 points, so a good finish on the final rally of 2015 may see De Villiers/Swan finish in third overall.
"There's a lot to play for on this final rally," continues Hall. "Taking anything for granted at this point would be a mistake, so we'll just have to wait for the weekend."
In Class S1600, defending champion Guy Botterill, with navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle beside him in the Yato Toyota Etios S1600, go into the final round with an 11 points championship lead. Their nearest rivals are teammates Matthew Vacy-Lyle and navigator Schalk van Heerden, who campaign the Fragram Toyota Etios S1600.
Botterill/Vacy-Lyle romped to championship victory with one round to spare in 2014, but this year has seen them scrabbling for points at times. Even so, the pair won four of this year's events, all but securing their second championship in a row.
The Polokwane Motor Rally starts at 13:00 on Friday 16 October, and continues at 07:00 on Saturday 17 October. The event is scheduled to end at 14:30 on Saturday, bringing to an end one of the most spectacular rally seasons in recent history.
Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Toyota Financial Services, Innovation Group, Imperial Toyota Group, Bosch, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, Smith Manufacturing, NGK, SKF, Reiger and Spanjaard.
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