Team Castrol Toyota made it seven podiums in a row for the new S2000 Rally Yaris while Toyota won the Manufacturers Award on the Polokwane Rally which ended here on Saturday.
Johnny Gemmell and Caroline Swan came home second to move into second place in the overall championship standings. A close fought battle all weekend between Gemmell/Swan and Sasolracing VW Polo crew Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries saw the Yaris crew come out on top.
Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray (Team Total Toyota Auris) won the S2000 Challenge class to extend their lead in the Challenge championship, with 20-year-old Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo taking a fine second place in the Toyota Auris.
“I think JP has won the Challenge championship, and it was great to see Wilro have a good run and display talent,” said Castrol Toyota team manager Glyn Hall. “We have a few fast young drivers on the scene at the moment and Wilro is certainly one of them.”
A sparkling performance on day one saw Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee in the second factory Toyota Yaris, finish only 1,3 seconds behind rally winners Mark Cronjé and Robin Houghton at the end of day one – after giving away the lead on the last stage of the day.
“We had great pace all day and we decided to slow at the flying finish of final stage,” said Poulter. “All the stages were new and we thought there would be an advantage to run second on the road for day two.”
There was major disappointment for the pair when a power steering hose failed during the first stage on day two.
With no service available it was decided to call it a day, with Hall deciding it would be too risky to tackle a lengthy special stage with power steering problems with no repairs possible.
“After the display Leeroy and Elvene put up on day one I really thought we were in with a good chance of a maiden win for the Yaris,” said Hall. “The pair continued the great performance shown on the Cape Dealer Rally where we made some significant changes to the Yaris’s suspension and engine.
“The performance is good and Leeroy and Elvene gave away about 12 seconds on the first special stage and then won the next two stages. They even managed to win stage 5 despite finishing with a front wheel puncture.”
Hall acknowledged, however, that there were other plus factors the Team Castrol Toyota squad could take away from the event. Although they were again the bridesmaids Gemmell and Swan once again came up with a solid performance.
“There is a feeling from within the team that the elusive first win cannot be far away,” Hall said.
Hall was also encouraged by a fight back that saw Dakar Rally star Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich in the Imperial Backed Toyota Yaris, recover from 22nd to finish eighth overall after a day one driveshaft problem. That forced them to rejoin the event under Super Rally regulations.
The S1600 category saw new winners this weekend in Marko Himmel and Francoise Schoonbee in a Toyota Corolla. Along with Craig Trott and Janine Lourens finishing third in class in a Toyota RunX helped Toyota to win the manufacturers award.