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Poulter / Coetzee clinch 2019 National Rally Championship in Toyota Yaris

  • First at school S2000
  • First at school S2000 Challenge
  • First at school S1600
  • Wins overall SA National Rally Championship with one race to go
  • Wins Class S1600 SA National Rally Championship with one race to go
  • Manufacturer’s award

It is a long time coming, but Castrol Team Toyota finally broke a ten-year drought in the South African National Rally Championship. Leeroy Poulter and Elvne Coetzee won the penultimate round of the championship in Polokwane – and with it bagged the ultimate crown in the sport: The 2019 South African National Rally Championship.

Poulter/Coetzee started the big event having to score maximum points, as Ford driver Mark Cronje still were built with a slim mathematical possibility of clinching the title. But a problem with a gate post put an end to Cronje’s championship aspirations, leaving his Ford Fiesta without a functioning front suspension. With the defending champion from the rally, Poulter/Coetzee’s victory in the Limpopo Province was enough to close the 2019 championship for them.

“It is an amazing feeling,” said Poulter after spraying sparkling wine in the top step of the podium. “We had to battle so difficult to get here, it is difficult to accept it’s actually happened.”

Poulter also paid homage towards the team that developed, built and eager his Castrol Team Toyota Yaris: “The people did a simply stunning job all year round, and even though we’d our challenges, I must provide them with credit for income congratulations.”

He also dedicated his championship to his late father: “I’m sure he would have loved to have been for this.”

Poulter has become the first Toyota driver because the legendary Serge Damseaux to bag the overall title for that Japanese marque. Damseaux last claimed the championship in 2004, so it has been ten years because the championship belonged to Toyota.

“For us this can be a simply stunning achievement,” said Toyota SA Motors Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “It not only shows the undeniable toughness for the Toyota Yaris, but additionally illustrates that people can contend with the very best this country has to offer – and walk off with the spoils.”

While Poulter had become the first Toyota driver to assert the title in 10 years, his co-driver has arguably even more to be happy with: Elvne Coetzee, daughter of Toyota stalwart racer Kassie Coetzee, is the first female navigator to win the championship in additional than four decades (Minota van Bergen won the navigator’s title in 1970).

“I’m just so glad everything came together for us,” she said following the race. “It’s possible to dream and something can hope, but to actually get up on the podium and be aware of championship is ours, is just unbelievable.”

The man behind the team, Team Principal Glyn Hall, summed up as such: “We always race to win. And that we always try to win the championship. But 2019 has been our year, and each single person in the team has contributed to it. In the end it was Leeroy behind the wheel, and Elvne beside him, however they represented many of us. We’re exceptionally happy with them, and proud of the team that managed to get all possible.”

While Poulter/Coetzee’s victory was certainly emotional, it wasn’t the only heart-warming show in Polokwane. Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000 driver Giniel de Villiers (who finished fifth overall) was faced with a massive problem shortly before the start of the event. His regular co-driver, Greg Godrich, fell seriously ill – leaving De Villiers without a navigator. In a highly sporting gesture, the Volkswagen team made certainly one of their most experienced navigators open to stand it for that stricken Godrich.

As a result the Imperial Toyota Yaris lined up for the oncoming of Stage 1 with Pierre Arries (former national champion with current Castrol Team Toyota driver Hergen Fekken) within the navigator’s seat. For Arries it was a stern test – not just had he not completed the recce of the event, but also, he needed to interpret the notes made by Godrich, and he had to achieve this at the insane speeds inherent to rallies! But De Villiers is and experienced campaigner, having recorded his maiden South African National rally victory on the previous round; and Arries is no newcomer towards the sport. The pair took a couple of stages to gel, after which poured around the pressure. After three stages Toyota held first place with Poulter, second with Fekken, and third with De Villiers.

Disappointingly their fairy-tale charge came to a sudden end when their race vehicle developed electrical problems, and De Villiers/Godrich were instructed to bow out of the competition on Day 1. But because of the Super Rally regulations, these were permitted to restart on Day 2 – and were able to claw their way back to fifth overall before running from stages.

Fekken and navigator Carolyn Swan fought a difficult battle throughout the Polokwane Motor Rally. Initially the pair matched the interest rate set by Poulter/Coetzee, and ended Day 1 just Thirty seconds behind the leaders. But disaster struck on Stage 7 (Day 2), once they overcooked a corner and damaged the suspension on their Castrol Team Toyota Yaris. The pair lost 10 mins as a result, rather than managed to recover from the incident.

The S2000 Challenge class, for older specification S2000 rally machines was won by PZN Panelbeaters’ Wilro Dippenaar and Kesavan Naidoo, within their Toyota Auris. The pair drove an inspired rally, moving into third place overall, before they incurred a small time penalty due to clocking at the end of at the start of stage 2. They dropped to fifth overall as a result, and were locked in a spectacular struggle with two Volkswagen Polo crews, before finally winning through and clinching the ultimate strike the overall podium.

In Class S1600, for front wheel drive race vehicles with engines as much as 1,600 cc, it was Toyota Etios R2 driver, Guy Botterill, who sealed a maiden championship victory. The young Durbanite, with navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle reading the notes, won basically among the rounds to date in 2019, with another victory around the Polokwane Motor Rally, the pair is well free from their nearest competitors.

Botterill/Vacy-Lyle drove a text-book rally from the get-go, setting the first pace within their Yato Tools supported Toyota Etios. Despite not having to push – they only needed a handful of points to seal the championship – Botterill won the first stage in emphatic style. Shortly after that, word of the demise of Botterill’s only mathematical challenger, Chad van Beurden (Volkswagen Polo) reached they, and thus the championship was won considerably sooner than expected.

Botterill’s victory led to Toyota also bagging the Manufacturer’s award for the Polokwane Motor Rally. For the Toyota Etios driver 2019 was a vintage year, with the championship sealed thanks to six rally victories from seven events – with yet another round to come. That round will require place on 21 and 22 November, in the area surrounding Bela-Bela in the Limpopo province.

Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Toyota Financial Services, Imperial Toyota Group, Innovation Group, Bosch, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, 4×4 Mega World, FreeM, NGK, Robor, SKF and Spanjaard.

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