Castrol Team Toyota ends rally season with podium finish
The 2014 South African National Rally Championship drew to a close at the end of the Bela-Bela Motor Rally, which took place in the area around the Limpopo town formerly known as Warmbaths on 21 and 22 November. This was round eight of the championship, and a third-place finish by Castrol Team Toyota’s Hergen Fekken and navigator Carolyn Swan saw the team conclude the season with yet another podium finish – the tenth for the team this year.
"We are very pleased with Hergen and Carolyn’s third-place on the Bela-Bela Motor Rally,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after the event. “This means that we have not only taken the championship, thanks to the performance of Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee throughout the year, but we’ve now added third place overall to our tally for the 2014 season.”
Fekken/Swan, driving the Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000 had to beat Dutch driver Hans Weijs and navigator Björn Degandt (Volkswagen) in the final round, in order to take second place in the overall championship. A minor back injury sustained by Fekken in the service park, shortly before the start of the rally may have played a role in the outcome – but despite a strong showing by Fekken and Swan, they were bested on the day by Weijs and Degandt, who went on to record their second rally victory in the South African championship.
The event started with a bang for Castrol Team Toyota, as 2014 national rally champions, Leeroy Poulter and navigator Elvéne Coetzee, blitzed the opening stages of the rally, winning three of the four stages on Day 1, and ending the day with a lead of more than 14 seconds. The pair again dominated early on Day 2, clearly showing why they are the champions. An engine misfire on Stage 7 put a halt to their progress, however, as Poulter decided to retire the normally reliable Toyota Yaris S2000, rather than risk extensive engine damage by continuing.
Castrol Team Toyota won the overall South African National Rally Championship this year – their first overall victory in ten years. Toyota also won the Class S2000 Challenge Championship (for older specification S2000 rally cars) for 2014 at the hands of young Namibian driver Wilro Dippenaar and his navigator Kes Naidoo (PZN Panelbeaters Toyota Auris). In Class S1600, Toyota also claimed the championship title, thanks to an impressive performance by Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle, in the Yato-supported Toyota Etios R2.
While Elvéne Coetzee clinched the overall championship title as navigator, team mate Carolyn Swan managed to bag second place in the championship, as she had competed in all eight rounds this year, while her nearest competitor missed out on one round. This is the first time in South African rally history where female co-drivers claimed first and second place in the championship.
“We were hoping to add a second place in the driver’s championship to our season,” continued Hall, “but it just wasn’t to be this time. Still, 2014 has been a great season for the rally team, and now we look forward to next weekend’s conclusion of the South African National Cross-Country Championship.”
After eight rounds of the rally championship, Toyota occupied first place (Poulter/Coetzee), third place (Fekken/Swan), fifth place (De Villiers/Godrich – Imperial Team Toyota Yaris S2000) and eigth place (Dippenaar/Naidoo – Class S2000 Challenge Champions).