After a vintage motorsport year in 2014, Toyota South Africa Motors has announced a formidable line-up of talent and experience to contest in the 2015 national cross country and rally championships. Competing as Castrol Team Toyota, Toyota Motorsport South Africa won the 2014 cross country drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships, as well as the rally drivers’ and co-driver’s championship, adding a 23rdmanufacturer’s title to their tally in the process. Team Principal Glyn hall says: ‘It was an absolutely fantastic year for us. We started both championships with wins, and we can only hope to get off to the same great start this year.” The team – again backed by Castrol, as it has been for more than three decades – certainly has the talent and experience to take on the challenges they’ll face during 2015.
Fielding defending champions in both disciplines, Castrol Team Toyota has every reason to be optimistic about their chances. Leeroy Poulter, who won his first South African National Rally Championship in 2014, will again campaign the proven Toyota Yaris S2000 rally car. Partnered with Elvéne Coetzee, who in 2014 became the first female navigator to win the championship in more than five decades, the pair have proven their mettle by winning four rounds of the eight-round championship in 2014, backed up by two second-place finishes.
For 2015 Poulter/Coetzee will be joined by Dakar veteran and multiple national motorsport champion Giniel De Villiers. Fresh from a stunning second-place finish on this year’s Dakar Rally in South America, De Villiers will have highly experienced navigator Carolyn Swan alongside him in the Toyota Yaris S2000. Hall says: ‘Giniel has proven himself over the last two seasons in the Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000. He won the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally last year, and has been Toyota’s mainstay on the grueling Dakar Rally since 2012. As such his inclusion in the core team will allow him to further develop his rally skills.’
As always the team has spent a significant amount of time refining the Toyota Yaris S2000 for the upcoming season, though the biggest visual change has been bringing the race vehicle in line with the current production version of the Yaris. When it comes to cross country racing, there can be no doubt that Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy are a class act. The pair won the Donaldson Cross Country Championship in 2013 and 2014, and will be aiming to defend their crown in 2015.
Hall added: ‘Anthony and Dennis have been ultra consistent. They have an uncanny ability to find their way, and they have clearly found the balance between pushing hard and bringing the highly reliable Toyota Hilux back in one piece.’ The pair will be in action in the new Dakar spec vehicle this season – a machine that has already proven itself on the tough Dakar Rally, where De Villiers and German co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz finished second overall earlier this year. The vehicle won’t be quite as new to Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, who will be partnering Taylor/Murphy again this year.
The pair completed the Dakar Rally in an identical vehicle earlier in 2015, placing 16th overall. Now in his second full year of cross country racing, Poulter will be looking to not only support the defending champions, but also to improve on his own fourth position overall in the 2014 championship. Hall says: ‘The latest version of the race Toyota Hilux is identical to the vehicle we ran on Dakar. So it is familiar territory to Leeroy and Rob. With that said, Anthony and Dennis competed in the same vehicle during the last round of last year’s championship, and they’ll get some testing under the belt before the season starts.’
The new vehicle features a host of small changes and refinements which, coupled with an all-new suspension set-up, makes the vehicle not only easier to drive, but also faster in rough terrain. This setup is similar to the configuration used on Dakar this year, where the new Toyota Hilux proved itself by not only coming second overall, but also posting several top-three stage times throughout the event. Hall says: ‘Dakar offers the ultimate variety in terrain. As such it is an invaluable tool in assisting with the setup of the vehicle for the local championship.’
Toyota South Africa Motors is also proud to be associated with a number of privateers, who campaign a variety of Toyota products. The most notable performances in 2014 were by Guy Botterill in Class S1600 of the South African National Rally Championship, and Johan Horn in Class T of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle won six of the eight rounds in the Class S1600 championship, wrapping up the title with one round to spare.
The pair campaigns a locally developed and built Toyota Etios R2, supported by Yato. Brothers Johan and Werner Horn were undoubtedly the surprise package of the 2014 Donaldson Cross Country Championship. Driving the ex-works Malalane Toyota Hilux, the pair took a maiden victory on the Sun City 450, and ended in second place overall in the championship.
Both crews will again be in action during 2015, together with a host of other Toyota privateers. The first round of the South African National Rally Championship, which consists of eight rounds, is the Tour Natal Rally, in KwaZulu-Natal. The event takes place on the weekend of 27 and 28 February 2015, and will again be based near the south coast town of Scottburgh.
Round 1 of the six-round Donaldson Cross Country Championship takes place in the area near Harrismith, KwaZulu-Natal, on 27 and 28 March, 2015.