The two-car Castrol Team Toyota heads to the Eastern Cape coast this weekend (July 15 and 16) looking for a second victory in this year’s South African Rally Championship.
The Volkswagen Rally, which starts in Uitenhage at 12.00 on Friday and finishes at the Port Elizabeth beach front on Saturday afternoon, kicks off the second half of the eight-round season and once again features the intimidating, fast gravel roads of the Longmore Forest near Hankey on both days.
In the only other forest event so far this year, the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga in April, the Super 2000 class Castrol and Innovation Group-backed Toyota Auris’s scored an historic 1-2 with Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee claiming a popular maiden overall victory ahead of team-mates Johnny Gemmell and Scottish co-driver Drew Sturrock. It was also Toyota’s 100th national championship rally win.
While Poulter and Coetzee, who only moved up to the premier class for modified 2-litre four-wheel drive cars this year after winning the 1,6-litre two-wheel drive class in 2010, will be aiming to repeat their heroic performance in the forests of the Lowveld, their biggest rivals will be their team-mates.
Gemmell and Sturrock, who flies to South Africa for each event, will be looking to score their first win in 2011 after scoring two victories last year on their way to second overall in the championship. One of these wins came in the 2010 VW Rally and Gemmell is relishing the prospect of tackling the intimidating, high speed gravel stages in the Longmore Forest between Uitenhage and Hankey again.
Heavy rains in the area have made life difficult for the organisers, with some stages completely underwater just weeks before the event, but all 12 stages (four tar and eight gravel) covering some 175 km are reported to be race-ready. No rain is forecast for the rally itself.
“We did well in the last forest event and are confident we can challenge for more success this weekend,” said an upbeat Glyn Hall, team principal. “It will not be easy, though. This is Volkswagen’s home ground and they will be putting in a massive effort to win their own event.
“We will also have to watch out for the Fords, which have proved to be very fast this year. With so many potential winners in the field, it’s going to be all about who can maintain a quick enough pace while keeping the car on the road,” said the former national champion.
Friday’s action includes three special stages in the Longmore Forest followed by two tar Super Special stages in Uitenhage. The rally restarts at 08.00 on Saturday in Uitenhage and includes five gravel stages (the three Longmore stages are repeated), a new tar stage at the Nelson Mandela Bay soccer stadium and the traditional final tar stage at the King’s Beach parking area in Port Elizabeth.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol (lubricants), Innovation Group (specialist provider of software and outsourcing solutions), NGK (sparkplugs), Imperial Group (logistics, car rental, tourism, financial services, vehicle distribution and retail), SKF (bearings), Ferodo (brake pads), Spanjaard (lubricants), Edgecam (machining software specialists) and Donaldson (filtration solutions).