With just days to go before the start of the 2014 SASOL Rally, set in the lush forests of the Lowveld, Team Castrol Toyota is looking forward to building on their early success this season.
Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Elvéne Coetzee won the opening round of the South African National Rally Championship in Durban earlier this year, while teammates Hergen Fekken and co-driver Carolyn Swan finished in second place.
“It was the dream start to our championship campaign,” says Team Principal Glyn Hall. “The team is brimming with confidence, and looking forward to the SASOL Rally – one of the highlights on the rally calendar.”
April 11th and 12th this year will see the 22nd running of the SASOL Rally, which is known for its fast and flowing forest roads. It is one of the most spectacular challenges in the rally championship, and is usually supported by large crowds of rally enthusiasts.
For Leeroy Poulter, the SASOL Rally was the scene of his maiden victory for Toyota, when he attained the top step of the podium in 2011 behind the wheel of a Castrol Team Toyota Auris S2000 rally car.
“I’ve always looked forward to taking part in the SASOL Rally. I enjoy the fast forest tracks, and really hope to build on what we achieved in Natal,” reckons Poulter.
Hergen Fekken may not have won at the SASOL Rally before, but the former double champion is excited at the prospect of scoring maximum points in the Lowveld.
“Our experience on the opening round of this year’s championship has proven to me that the car is more than just capable of winning rallies,” says Fekken. “For me it is still early days with the team, but already Carolyn and I are gelling better in the car, and the Yaris feels more familiar every time I drive it.”
According to Hall the team has been hard at work since the first event. “We have made substantial changes to the Yaris for the SASOL, including a complete new rear suspension design. Together with new damper settings, this design has given the Yaris better stability. There’s also an engine upgrade, and together with the other changes, this should give us a nice step in the right direction.”
The changes have been planned for some time, but according to South African Rally regulations, the team either had to implement them now, or forego the changes altogether. All 3 Yaris – including the Imperial Toyota Yaris driven by Giniel de Villiers – will start the SASOL Rally in the same specification.
The 2014 SASOL Rally gets under way at 10:00 on Friday, April 11th, at the Sabie town square. There are seven stages on Friday, with seven more on Saturday, bringing the total race distance to 202 km. The rally concludes at the showgrounds in Nelspruit at 15:50 on Saturday, April 12th.