The Volkswagen Rally marks the halfway point and round 4 of the 2012 South Africa Rally Championship to be held in Port Elizabeth this weekend. The Port Elizabeth event will be held over 12 stages, starting at Auto Pavilion at 12:00 on Friday 13 July and finishing at a Kings Beach finale late on Saturday.
Hosting the event and celebrating 30 years in motorsport are Volkswagen, who are suitably anxious to make a good showing in their home event. “This is our first opportunity to show off the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 on home ground,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “The team has been working hard this year on the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 rally cars and this will be just the fourth time the cars are run in competition. We’re just as excited for the Volkswagen Rally as the fans. We can’t wait to get into competition on home turf and show what the new BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 rally cars can do.”
The all-foreign driver and navigator team of Hans Weijs Jnr and Björn Degandt are in fifth place overall with their local teammates Enzo Kuun / Guy Hodgson and Hergen Fekken / Pierre Arries trailing someway behind in the championship.
Toyota Motorsport has entered a strong team of S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris cars being piloted by Johnny Gemmell / Carolyn Swan (currently 2nd in the championship), and Leeroy Poulter / Elvene Coetzee. The surprise inclusion is Red Bull athlete Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Ralph Pitchford, who will make their first appearance of the season in a brand new Imperial Toyota Auris. Gemmell / Swan are enjoying a competitive first season together and have come close to winning twice already, losing out by just seconds on occasion to championship leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Sasol Ford Fiesta), winners of the first two rounds.
“Johnny has come close to winning all three rounds so far this year. He’s been right on the pace all season and the Toyota Auris has the speed. He’s been just seconds away from winning on two occasions and only a puncture prevented him from another possible win in the last round,” said team principal Glyn Hall.
Commenting on the arrival of the third car, Hall said: “We’re delighted to have a Toyota rally car for Giniel to continue his rally career thanks to the generous support of title sponsor Imperial Toyota, as well as Duxbury Netgear and Innovation – all of whom made it possible for us to enjoy our Dakar Rally success with the Toyota Hilux – we are able to mount a serious challenge for the remainder of this season.”
The PE rally is known for its fast sweeps on flowing gravel roads, with intense action in the demanding Longmore Forest, around the Port Elizabeth Oval Track Raceway (PEOTR) and Gamtoos region, before concluding on the asphalt of the Kings Beach complex. The battle at the top of the South African Rally Championship is tight, with the top five crews separated by just 10 points.
- Mark Cronje / Robin Houghton (Sasol Ford Fiesta) – 60 points.
- Johnny Gemmell / Carolyn Swan (Castrol Toyota Auris) – 57 points.
- Jon Williams / Cobus Vrey (Sasol Ford Fiesta) – 53 points.
- Jan Habig / Robert Paisley (Basil Read Ford Fiesta) – 51 points.
- Hans Weijs Jnr / Bjorn Degandt (BP VW Polo) – 50 points.
With three wins out of three events, Ford lead the manufacturers championship with 298 points, 87 points ahead of 2nd place Toyota and 91 points ahead of Volkswagen.