After a highly successful motorsport year in 2015, followed by a strong performance at the gruelling Dakar Rally in South America earlier this year, Toyota is primed to tackle the 2016 motorsport season.
The team will compete in both the South African National Rally Championship and the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship.
What is very exciting is the new team name, Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa, which aligns the local motorsport activities with the Toyota Motor Corporation’s global motorsport direction and with that recently adopted by the Dakar Team.
The new name reflects a global move by the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) to unify its racing efforts, and will be expanded to include more racing formulae during 2016.
The word ‘Gazoo’ has a long and proud history in Japan, and is synonymous with driving pleasure, fun and racing excellence. The rally teams are made up of Leeroy Poulter, the newly crowned South African Motorsportsman of the Year, who will again campaign the Toyota Yaris S2000 in this year’s South African National Rally Championship.
Poulter, who won the title in 2014, will be partnered by Elvéne Coetzee, the reigning South African Champion navigator. The pair finished the 2015 season as runners-up, after taking the title chase right down to the wire.
Dakar specialist Giniel de Villiers will be partnered with Carolyn Swan in the second Toyota Yaris S2000, as in 2015. The pair finished in third place in the overall standings for 2015, making it two Toyota Yaris S2000 vehicles in the Top 3.
This year’s National Rally Championship has a new look and feel, and starts off with the Goldfields Rally on 4 and 5 March 2016, rather than the traditional Durban-based event. With that said, the season promises to deliver as much excitement as ever, with seven rounds taking place across the Free State, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
“2015 was an absolutely stunning year for us,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Team Principal, Glyn Hall.
“Leeroy and Elvéne were in the rally title chase all the way to the final round, and when it came to the cross-country championship, the Toyota Hilux totally dominated.”
The Toyota rally, the Cape Dealer Rally, will take place on 16 & 17 September. For the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, Toyota will be fielding two Toyota Hilux race vehicles, this year competing in the newly formed FIA Category for Production Vehicles.
This new category was specifically added to cater for South African teams who compete in other FIA cross-country races, as well as the gruelling Dakar Rally.
“This is an exciting development for us,” explains Hall. “Firstly, it allows us to run our race vehicles in almost identical trim to Dakar, giving us many more miles of detailed testing during the year. At the same time, it also opens the door for international crews to come and compete in South Africa, adding to the challenge and drama of the formula.”
The team again competed in the Dakar Rally 2016 this year, with Giniel de Villiers and long-standing navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz bringing the locally developed and built Toyota Hilux home in third place overall.
At the same time, teammates Poulter and his navigator, Rob Howie, achieved a stunning fifth place in the final standings – this in only their third Dakar together. Poulter truly came of age during this year’s Dakar, and is now a fully recognised serious contender for the future.
Poulter and Howie dominated the 2015 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, recording five outright wins and another win on the first day of the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race. The pair secured victory in the championship with one round to spare, with teammates and former multiple champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy finishing second in the overall standings, in the second Toyota Hilux.
Both crews will again be in action during the 2016 season, in the latest version of the Dakar-spec Toyota Hilux, which now features a naturally aspirated V8 engine of five-litres.
“The New Toyota Hilux has really evolved into a finely tuned racing machine,” says Hall. “The version we’ll be racing locally is virtually identical to the machines used on Dakar, and even the livery will be the same. This means that fans who come to the local races will be able to see our Dakar vehicles racing in anger – exactly like they would on Dakar.”
The 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship gets under way at the spiritual home of off-road racing, the Northwest town of Vryburg, with the RFS Endurance on April 1st and 2nd, 2016.
The Toyota Cross-Country will again be the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race held from 24-26 June in Jwaneng in Botswana “For us at Toyota SA Motors, motorsport will always remain close to our hearts. We had a fantastic season last year, and wish all the crews well for 2016. Hopefully we can equal – or maybe even better – our achievements from 2015,” says Calvyn Hamman, Toyota SA Motors Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing.
Toyota Motorsport South Africa enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Toyota Financial Services, Innovation Group, Imperial Toyota Group, Bosch, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, Smith Manufacturing, NGK, SKF, Reiger and Spanjaard.