Fresh from a fine showing in the season-opening Total Rally in KwaZulu-Natal four weeks ago, Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (Toyota Auris) will head a strong Castrol Team Toyota challenge in the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga on April 20 and 21.
Gemmell, who finished second behind the Ford Fiesta of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in KZN in March, is a two-time former winner of the Sasol Rally (in 2007 and 2009 with Peter Marsh) and will be hoping that he and Swan can score Toyota's 102nd national championship victory.
Team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee won last year's Sasol Rally in their debut year together in the Castrol Toyota team, scoring Toyota's historic 100th victory. They were out of luck in the Total Rally, forced to retire on the opening stage after their Toyota Auris caught fire and burn out. Poulter went wide in a corner and beached the car on the edge of the road. While he attempted to manoeuvre the car back on to the road the hot exhaust set fire to the dry undergrowth and it quickly engulfed the Toyota, reducing it to a shell within minutes.
The Toyota Motorsport team under Glyn Hall have rebuilt a privateer Toyota Auris acquired between events. "The loss of Leeroy's car was a big blow to the team," admitted Hall. "It was virtually a brand new car, with almost all major components replaced, and we had high hopes for it this season.
"We were fortunate to be able to take over the ex-Chase Attwell Auris originally built by Toyota Motorsport in 2010 and we have rebuilt this to the same specifications as Johnny's car. Johnny and Carolyn showed good pace on the Total Rally and challenged Mark and Robin throughout the final day.
"Leeroy and Elvene were looking very good in the shakedown stage before the Total as well as in the tarmac stage that determined the start order for the rally. We are confident we again have two cars that can do the job this weekend."
The Sasol Rally presents an opportunity for Poulter and Coetzee to put their Total Rally frustrations behind them and tackle the spectacular and scenic gravel roads around Sabie, Graskop, White River and Nelspruit over two days and 14 special stages (11 gravel and three tarmac).
There will be a shakedown stage in Sabie on Thursday afternoon and the event gets underway at 10h00 on Friday from Sabie. Day one starts with four gravel stages in the York Timbers forests in the Sabie and Graskop areas and ends with the traditional and immensely popular tarmac night stages in Sabie and White River before the overnight stop in White River.
Saturday's first stage, a super special, is also on tarmac and starts at 07h00 in Nelspruit before the first of the day's six gravel stages, a new stage around the Mbombela Stadium. Competitors then return to the York Timbers forests for five gravel stages in the Hendriksdal and Sabie areas. The Lowveld Showgrounds are the traditional venue for the final, short stage on grass.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Innovation Group, NGK, Imperial Toyota Group, SKF, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.
Follow the fortunes of the Castrol Team Toyota rally team on Twitter, www.twitter.com/@ToyotaLive.
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