At the end of a dramatic first day of the season-opening Total Rally, which ended after five gravel special stages in the south coast area of KwaZulu-Natal today (Friday), Castrol Team Toyota’s Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan were handily placed ahead of Saturday’s nine gravel special stages and one tarmac super special stage.
They finished third in the provisional results in their factory Toyota Auris after winning stage four and completing the four stages that were scored in a time of 24 min 51 sec, 3,4 sec behind the day’s winners, Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich in a Ford Fiesta and nine tenths of a second behind second-placed Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in a factory Volkswagen Polo.
Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Andre Vermeulen in a privateer Toyota Auris were fourth, seven tenths of a second behind Gemmell and Swan.
Stage one was halted after only the first six cars had exited the stage, including Gemmell and Swan, who recorded the fastest time, after their team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee went off the road and were forced to abandon their car when it caught alight. Despite their best efforts and the assistance of fellow competitors, they were unable to extinguish the fire and theToyotawas destroyed.
“I went too wide into a bend and we slipped off the road and got stuck, with two wheels hanging over the edge of the road,” explained Poulter. “When we tried to reverse out the hot exhaust must have started a fire in the dry undergrowth and within minutes it was out of control and engulfed the car.”
The rally restarted with stage two after the remainder of the field had driven slowly through the first stage without their times being recorded. The provisional results released at the end of the day were for stages two to five.
Leading the S1600 class for two-wheel drive cars at the end of day one were former champion Craig Trott and co-driver Robbie Coetzee in a privateer Toyota RunX. They finished 16th overall behind the four-wheel drive S2000 cars and 1,1 sec ahead of the S1600 Toyota RunX of Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle. Third in class and 59,9 sec behind Trott and Coetzee was the privateer Toyota Auris of Tjaart Conradie and Kes Naidoo.
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