The new Toyota Yaris rally car claimed its first podium finish in only its second outing when Toyota Motorsport’s Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee finished third in a Castrol-backed example in the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga on Saturday. In the process they moved up to second place in the championship.
Team-mates Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan were fifth in a second Castrol Team Toyota Yaris in the two-day event, which ended in Nelspruit after 13 special stages run in extremely wet and misty conditions.
Poulter, winner of the 2011 Sasol Rally with Coetzee in a Castrol Toyota Auris, was enthusiastic about his new rally car. “We have made great progress with the new Yaris, but this was no place to push the car to the limit. The weather conditions were atrocious and I’m surprised more people didn’t go off the road and damage their cars. We managed to complete the rally relatively unscathed, although we lost some time on a couple of occasions when we wrong-slotted in the mist. At times you couldn’t see much further than the car’s bonnet. The Yaris has a lot of potential.”
Gemmell, who hit a tree stump after going off the road in the misty and slippery conditions on special stage two, pushing the sump guard into the radiator, used all his skills to nurse the overheating Toyota through the rest of the stage and the next stage before he could reach the designated service park. The service crew performed a near miracle to repair the car in just 30 minutes. The entire radiator support structure had to be cut out and was replaced with a makeshift frame welded into place before a new radiator could be installed.
“We were able to do a little bit of testing between the first two events and the changes and improvements we made worked well. I’m impressed with the Yaris at this early stage in its development,” said the twice former Sasol Rally winner, who repaid the service crew for their efforts by winning the first stage on Saturday.
Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich hit a roadside rock in heavy mist on day one, terminally damaging a third new Toyota Motorsport Yaris that was only completed the day before the rally started and was making its debut in Imperial Toyota colours.
“I misjudged a tight corner in the mist eight kilometres into special stage two and we hit a large rock half hidden in the grass on the side of the road and spun into a bank,” explained De Villiers. “It took out the left-hand front lower wishbone and steering arm. The technical team performed their usual magic and had the car ready for us by the early start on Saturday morning so that we could compete in the Super Rally and test and feel the potential of the new Yaris.
Team principal Glyn Hall commented: “Overall I am happy with the weekend’s performance. We did some good testing in dry conditions the day before the event and it was clear we had made good progress. We changed the set-up on the car during the rally, adapting the car to the muddy conditions.
“It’s about confidence for the drivers when the roads are so slippery. Johnny was unfortunate, the mist was very thick on the exit of a fourth gear corner and he had to commit to his line, which was a bit wider than the road, the car proved its strength surviving a massive impact.”
STORY BY TOYOTA