Castrol Yaris scores maiden stage win on debut and 10 top-three finishes
Privateer Toyota wins S2000 Challenge class
Privateer Etios wins S1600 class on debut
Poulter/Coetzee finish fourth overall and in S2000 class
Toyota 1st, 3rd and 4th in S2000 Challenge
Seven Toyotas in top 10 overall
Toyota Motorsport got its new national rally championship season off to a good start in the Total Rally in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend.
Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee finished fourth in the debut of the S2000 class Castrol Toyota Yaris after running third until the final special stage on Saturday. Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan scored the Yaris’s maiden special stage victory and, between them, the two Castrol Team Toyota crews compiled an impressive 10 top-three stage finishes.
Privateers Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray finished a fine third overall and first in the S2000 Challenge in a Team Total Toyota Auris. The rally was won by defending champions Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton from Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, both in Ford Fiestas.
A privateer rally version of the popular new Toyota Etios, prepared by Jemsport and crewed by Thilo Himmel and Armand du Toit, won the two-wheel drive S1600 class on debut. Toyota crowned a successful weekend by also winning the newly-created manufacturer’s team prize. There were seven Toyotas in the top 10.
The Total Rally was run over a combination of fast and slippery gravel special stages on private sugar farms along the KZN South Coast on Friday and Saturday, with a short tarmac super special stage completing each of the two
days on the old Durban drive-in site.
“We are all very proud of the overall performance of the new Castrol Yaris rally car on debut,” enthused Toyota Motorsport team principal Glyn Hall. “The new cars were only completed on Thursday due to the late delivery of some key components and we only had time for a few kilometres of shakedown testing before travelling down to Durban for Friday morning’s start.
“This was not how we planned it, but I’m ecstatic with our performance under the circumstances. With a little bit of luck we would have had a podium finish with Leeroy and Elvene, but for the failure of a power steering pulley three stages from the finish.”
After the first two stages on Friday 2012 championship runners-up Gemmell and Swan were fifth and Poulter and Coetzee seventh and settling into a rhythm. Gemmell and Swan then lost time with starter motor problems and were forced to retire later as a result of a fire under the engine.
A heavy landing after a yump broke the Toyota’s exhaust and the hot gases ignited the power steering fluid in the pipes. The car was not badly damaged, but was unable to continue.
Poulter and Coetzee got quicker with each stage and finished fourth overall, just 17 seconds behind the third-placed car.
They moved up into third place on Saturday’s opening stage and were looking good for a debut podium finish until the power steering problem intervened. Six top three stage results were some satisfaction and an indication of the car’s potential.
Gemmell and Swan were allowed to continue on Saturday under the Super Rally rules, starting near the back of the S2000 class and carrying penalties for each of the stages they failed to complete, effectively putting them out of the running.
“We worked late into Friday night to repair Johnny’s car, so that he and Carolyn could get some mileage under their belts and we could try out different setups,” explained Hall. “In the event, we learnt a lot and Johnny got faster as the car was more to his liking. He finished really well, with two second places and our first Yaris stage win in the last four stages.”
Gemmell and Swan were eventually placed 13th overall.
Toyota Motorsport’s third entry, the Imperial Toyota Auris of Dakar hero Giniel de Villiers and new co-driver Greg Godrich, had a steady if unspectacular rally, spoilt only by a power steering problem on Saturday after they had completed the first day in ninth place, only 25 seconds behind the fifth-placed Toyota Auris of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray.
They were looking good for a top five finish on Saturday after closing the gap to Damseaux and Auffray to 15 seconds when they experienced power steering problems and were forced to take a 40-second penalty for lateness while the service crew effected repairs. They eventually finished sixth overall, just five seconds behind the fifth-placed VW Polo of Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin.
The next round of the championship is the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga on April 19 and 20.
Toyota Motorsport 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, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, NGK, SKF and Spanjaard,