The 2014 South African National Rally Championship reaches its mid-point this coming weekend, with the Volkswagen Rally in and around Port Elizabeth. For Castrol Team Toyota this will be a key event in the season, as a good points-haul on their long-standing rivals’ event could see the team build on their early lead in the championship.
“We started strong this year,” says Team Principal Glyn Hall. “Leeroy Poulter leads the championship, having won twice already; and Hergen Fekken is currently lying second. But a good result on the VW Rally is of paramount importance.”
Poulter, with navigator Elvéne Coetzee beside him, drew first blood by taking the honours on the season-opening Tour Natal Rally. The pair drove their S2000 Castrol Team Toyota Yaris to a second successive victory on Round 2, the Sasol Rally. A disappointing run on Round 3, however, saw the pair net only 7 points – enough to retain the lead in the championship, but they clearly have a lot to do before the season is out.
“We have to concentrate on grabbing as many points as possible on the VW Rally,” reckons Poulter, “but we’ll be aiming for the podium for sure.”
Fekken and navigator Carolyn Swan hasn’t won yet this year, though two podium finishes sees them currently tied on points with their teammates. The pair is officially in second place by virtue of the fact that Poulter has recorded more wins.
“The cars will all be run in identical spec on the VW Rally,” continues Hall. “We’ve made some small changes to the engine mapping, and set up the suspension closer to the settings we used on the Sasol Rally.”
In Class S1600, for front-wheel drive vehicles with engines no larger than 1600 cc, Durbanite Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle has proven to be the team to beat in the 2014 season. The pair, driving a Yato-sponsored Toyota Etios R2, has recorded three victories from three starts, and currently have a 32 point lead at the top of the table.
“Our season got off to the perfect start. And the car has performed flawlessly so far,” says Botterill.
The 2014 Volkswagen Rally features four completely new stages this year, though the traditional Longmore Forest stages still form the bulk of the event. As Hall says: “It is an event that really tests the drivers, with some very high speed corners in the forest. These are some of the best rally roads in the country, and we look forward to taking on the Longmore again.”
There will be a total of 15 special stages, to be run on July 11th and 12th. Two new gravel stages have been included – one near Greenbushes and another at Gamtoos River – as well as two stages in the seaside town of Jeffreys Bay. For the first time in many years, the rally will not end with the traditional Super Special stage on King’s Beach in Port Elizabeth, but will culminate with a 1.4 km-long stage at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium instead.
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, Imperial Toyota Group, Innovation Group, Bosch, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, 4×4 Mega World, FreeM, NGK, Robor, SKF and Spanjaard.