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Toyota Yaris cleans up in Western Cape rally

Toyota Yaris cleans up in Western Cape rally
yaris 2.jpg

It was a weekend that promised much and at one stage on Saturday a Castrol Team Toyota Yaris 1-2 looked very much on the cards.

But at the end of the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, which finished in Brackenfell near Cape Town on Saturday afternoon after two days and 10 special stages in the Durbanville, Malmesbury and Moorreesburg areas, Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan fell just 1,8 seconds shy of a maiden victory for the new-for-2013 Yaris.

Second place behind Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton was enough for Gemmell and Swan to move into second place in the championship with two rounds remaining, while team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee finished seventh in the second Castrol Toyota Yaris after leading the rally with just two stages remaining. A rare engine problem stopped them in their tracks on the penultimate stage on Saturday.

The results are provisional and subject to an appeal that Toyota Motorsport has indicated its intention to lodge against a decision to rescind a 10-second penalty imposed on the winners for a jump start in the last of Friday’s special stages.

The sixth round of the eight-event SA Rally Championship was a drama-filled and exciting affair, run in cold and windy weather on Friday and wet and slippery conditions on Saturday after overnight rain that continued for most of Saturday morning.

While overall victory might have eluded them on this occasion, Toyota claimed wins in the S2000 Challenge for older specification four-wheel drive cars, with local favourite Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Hilton Auffray finishing fourth overall in the Team Total Toyota Auris, and in the S1600 class for two-wheel drive cars with Thilo Himmel from Namibia and Armand du Toit (Toyota Etios R2).

In addition, Toyota won the manufacturers award for the event and extended their lead in the overall manufacturers’ championship.

“It was almost a perfect weekend for the new rally Yaris,” said team principal Glyn Hall. “We made quite a few changes to the car after the last rally and we managed to find a way to unlock some additional performance. We were particularly pleased that we won stages in the dry and the wet without making any changes to the car.”

Between them Gemmell and Poulter won seven of the 10 special stages that made up the 172 kilometres of gravel racing over the two days. They were well-placed to push for a victory on Saturday after finishing a close second and third respectively at the end of the first day.

“They took control on Saturday, winning the first four of the day’s five stages and Leeroy moved into the overall lead on stage eight before he was forced out with the engine problem,” said Hall. “This is very unusual as the Toyota engine is normally bullet-proof and we’ll be looking into the cause of this as soon as we get the car back to our Johannesburg workshop. It was a tough break for Leeroy as he looked to be headed for the victory.

“It was a fantastic effort by both drivers and we’re feeling a lot more optimistic for the future.”

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