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Sunday, September 16, 2012

GEMMELL AND SWAN TAKE IT FOR TOYOTA



Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Auris) made a sponsor’s dream come true with victory in the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in the Western Cape yesterday.

It was their second win of the season and in the process they regained the lead in the SA Rally Championship. They now enjoy a five-point advantage with two rounds remaining over Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta), who finished third, 50 seconds in arrears. Former champions Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (VW Polo) were second, 45 seconds behind the winning Toyota pair.

Leading Toyota privateer and multiple Western Cape rally champion Jean-Pierre Damseaux and co-driver Grant Martin (Team Total Auris) took full advantage of Damseaux’s knowledge of local conditions to finish fifth overall behind the Ford Fiesta of Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey.

The two-day rally, held over 13 special stages and some 180 kilometres of forest and gravel roads in the Grabouw and Caledon areas, featured the same head-to-head battle between Gemmell and Cronje that has characterised most of the previous five rounds and seen them win five rallies between them and share the podium on five occasions.

Gemmell and Swan, seeking a first championship title, led at the end of Friday’s six special stages by 16 seconds from Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (VW Polo) and by 54 seconds from Damseaux and Martin.

They opened up their lead over Kuun and Hodgson with each stage on Saturday, controlling the rally from the front, before slowing their pace on the last of the long gravel stages as victory was assured.

Toyota Motorsport team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Celeste Snyders (Imperial Toyota Auris) finished seventh overall in their third event together.

Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee were officially classified as finishing 19th overall and 15th among the four-wheel-drive S2000 cars in the second Castrol Team Toyota Auris. They were forced to retire on the fifth stage on Friday when a sheared gearbox input shaft prematurely ended their challenge for what was looking like a podium finish.

They restarted on Saturday after the Toyota Motorsport technicians replaced the shaft and competed under Super Rally rules to gain some seat time and test different set-up combinations. Poulter recorded a number of top-four stage times and won the short, final stage at the Caledon rugby club.

“We’re delighted to have pulled off another win in what has been a challenging event. Regaining the championship lead was our main objective this weekend and Johnny and Carolyn were fast and consistent throughout the rally,” said team manager Glyn Hall.

“Leeroy and Elvene were looking good for a podium finish until their retirement. Giniel and Celeste have made great progress together and are now on the pace of the front-running teams. “At one stage yesterday we were looking at having all three cars in the top four positions.”

The next round of the championship is the Polokwane Rally in Limpopo on October 6 and 7.


STORY BY TOYOTA

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