Toyota Motorsport’s Giniel de Villiers and Celeste Snyders (Imperial Toyota Auris) and Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Toyota Auris) completed the first day of the Polokwane Rally in Limpopo in fourth and fifth places respectively this afternoon, while team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee (Castrol Toyota Auris) had to settle for 12th place after collecting a five minute penalty for lateness.
De Villiers and Snyders had a relatively good day despite several overshoots in some of the stages that featured such tight corners that the cars were driving in their own dust. “”We also went off the road in stage three and lost a few seconds when I battled to restart the car,” said De Villiers.
Gemmell, who with Swan led the championship by five points from Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta) going into this penultimate round of the SA rally championship, finished 12 seconds behind De Villiers and a disappointing 1 min 38 sec behind the day’s leaders, Cronje and Houghton.
“We’re a bit baffled,” admitted team principal Glyn Hall. “Johnny’s car is just not performing as it should and we really don’t know why. We have 45 minutes in the service park this evening to investigate and hopefully we’ll come up with something.”
A stoic Gemmell accepted the added challenge of having to come from behind on Sunday. “We’ve got it all to do tomorrow,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a bit more pace and a better rhythm and climb up the leader board.”
Poulter and Coetzee started first this morning and had the disadvantage of sweeping the roads of loose stones and smoothing the way for the cars behind them. A bolt in a front suspension strut broke, affecting the car’s camber and steering, and Poulter struggled to an uncharacteristic 14th place, 45 seconds behind stage winner Cronje and 24 seconds slower than team-mate Gemmell.
He managed to make running repairs between stages and had to wait until the end of the third stage before his technicians could attend to the problem at the first service stop. In the process he lost loads of time and picked up a 5 min 20 sec penalty for 22 minutes of lateness.
He remained upbeat despite his setback and went on to win four of the day’s eight special stages, accumulating a total time that put him second overall, 38 sec behind Cronje, before the penalty was added.
“We had good pace and apart from the broken suspension bolt, our Auris didn’t miss a beat,” said Poulter. “We were fortunate to make it back to the first service stop after driving two stages with an Allen key replacing the broken bolt and secured with cable ties and duct tape.”
Toyota privateers Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Grant Martin and Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen finished a respectable seventh and ninth respectively in their Team Total Auris four-wheel drive rally cars.
Five special stages, two short ones on tarmac in Polokwane and three more gravel stages in the Limpopo bushveld, await the competitors tomorrow before the rally ends at the Peter Mokhaba Stadium in Polokwane from around 11.00.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Imperial Toyota Group, Innovation Group, Duxbury Netgear, NGK, SKF, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.
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