Ford Performance Crew Eagerly Anticipating Start Of 2015 Rally Season
- Double champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton flying the Ford Performance flag in their Class S2000 Fiesta
- Fast yet tricky stages through KwaZulu-Natal’s infamous South Coast sugar cane fields
- Rally based at Scottburgh Country Club on 27 and 28 February, total of 11 stages and 179 km (462 km total distance)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, 24 February 2015 – Double national rally champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton will be flying the official Ford Performance flag when the 2015 South African Rally Championship kicks off this weekend on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast.
The Tour Natal is based at the Scottburgh Country Club, and features six action-packed stages on Friday, followed by five stages on Saturday for a total 179 km of adrenaline-charged action.
The event wraps up on Saturday afternoon with a “power stage” at Montevideo, adjacent to the Scottburgh runway. This spectator-friendly innovation will see the grid inverted and the slowest competitors being progressively knocked off a demarcated bench, ultimately leaving the winners as the last crew remaining.
Cronje and Houghton, who won the Tour Natal in 2012 and 2013 on their way to the back-to-back titles, are among seven premier Class S2000 crews expected at the start line on Friday, competing in their four-wheel drive normally aspirated Ford Fiesta (#24). This is the same specification car as used last year, with their upgraded car scheduled to make its debut at the Sasol Rally in April.
One of the biggest changes for the 2015 season is that the teams will have two opportunities to recce the route ahead of the rally, giving the crews time to refine their pace notes for the event, as is done in the World Rally Championship.
“Allowing us to recce the route and produce or refine our own pace notes is a huge change from last year, and will make the stage times faster and more competitive,” Cronje says.
“This will be particularly beneficial on the Tour Natal, as it’s a very tricky event with an extremely slippery surface. Unlike other rallies, there is no room for mistakes on the Tour Natal, because if you go off into the sugar cane the car gets beached and that’s usually the end of your rally.”
Cronje also indicates that the starting position is extremely important on this event, with the starting order determined by a draw. “The first cars effectively sweep the road and the times get faster the further back you start as the slippery surface is cleared. By day two there is much more grip and everyone is on maximum attack.
“We are really excited to be competing under the Ford Performance banner this year, and believe that we have a race-winning car and team,” Cronje states.
The action kicks off from the official start and service park at the Scottburgh Country Club at 12:00 on Friday, with the first special stage commencing at 12:45. The day wraps up back at the service park at 18:00.
On Saturday the crews start stage seven at 08:40, while the highly anticipated Montevideo power stage begins at 13:40 and is expected to be a true crowd-pleaser.
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Follow the team’s updates and progress on www.facebook.com/FordPerformanceSA