TOYOTA YARIS ON PODIUM DESPITE TOUGH RACING IN PORT ELIZABETH
- De Villiers and Godrich takes third in Imperial Toyota Yaris
- Mechanical damage leads to DNF for Poulter and seventh for Gemmell
- Toyota on top in Challenge and S1600 classes
- Toyota wins Manufacturer’s Award for most points scored by a manufacturer
- The two racing Yaris from Castrol Team Toyota will head back to Johannesburg with every intention to challenge VW Rally winners Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in the upcoming Ford Dealer Rally in Pretoria on 17 August.
The team arrived in Port Elizabeth last week with great expectations, as they dominated this event for the past two years. Unfortunately, a mix of punctures and some mechanical damage thwarted their attempts and it was left to the Imperial Toyota team’s Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Greg Godrich to challenge for the podium. The Imperial Toyota pair ended the race in third.
“I am happy for Giniel and Greg, but sad about the Castrol Team Toyota drivers. We were hoping for a clean run,” said Castrol Team Toyota team principal Glyn Hall after the event.
The event included some 170 km of racing stages across Friday and Saturday and featured a mix of tar special and super special (pitching competitors against each other) and gravel stages. The rally is well loved for the spectator-friendly tar stages in Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay and for the high speed gravel stages in the Longmore forest, with thick plantations and some fast switchbacks where a mistake could find a rally car tumbling down the hill.
For Castrol Team Toyota the first day was spoiled by some unfortunate flat tyres for both Gemmell and Poulter, while Poulter (and several other competitors) overshot the short flying finish at the end of stage 4. For Gemmell the flat tyres added 3 minutes to his time and he ended the day in tenth position.
Poulter and co-driver Elvéne Coetzee valiantly fought the lead pairs of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton and Jan Habig and Robert Paisley to end the day in third, but the overshot stage finish meant that the Yaris had front suspension damage, which had to be replaced.
“The day made for some great racing,” says Hall. “After 60 km of racing only 8 seconds separated the first four cars.”
Heading into Saturday Poulter and Coetzee were committed to challenge the two front running Fords, but disaster struck on stage 11 as the Yaris suffered suspension failure. Toyota engineers believe that the fault relates to the damage sustained on day one. At the same time Gemmell and his navigator Carolyn Swan posted some blistering stage times to work his way back up to seventh at the end of Saturday’s racing.
Poulter’s unfortunate retirement opened the road for De Villiers and Godrich to compete for a podium position. It is the Imperial Toyota pair’s third outing in the new Toyota Yaris, which was inaugurated at the Sasol Rally in Nelspruit earlier this year.
“All three cars featured some engine and aerodynamic upgrades, which included a newly homologated and more racing-focussed front bumper. These improvements worked well, but we would have liked to test it over the full event,” says Hall.
Toyota was well represented on the S2000 Challenge podium as JP Damseaux and co-driver Hilton Auffrey won this division in their Toyota Auris S2000. Nic van der Westhuizen and co-driver Stefan Cilliers took third position.
In the S1600 class Craig Trott and Janine Lourens ended the rally on the second podium step, while Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden took third. Both teams race in Toyota RunX models.
With Toyota’s strong showing in all classes, and across the leader board it was awarded with the manufacturer’s award at the VW Rally.