Serge Damseaux and Robert Paisley became the first driver pairing in the world to win a rally with a FIA specification Super 2000 class car, the Team Castrol Toyota RunX RSi taking a dominant 3 minute 46 second victory, appropriately on the Toyota Dealer Rally.
Damseaux won seven stages of the ten-stage event outright and claimed another piece of SA rally history by winning his 67th event, a record in the sport. All but one of those victories was behind the wheel of Toyota cars.
The Western Cape event, round two of the Sasol SA Rally Championship, saw the first real benchmark of the capabilities and competitiveness of the new top class regulations in stage one, where Damseaux went head-to-head with the latest production car class N4 Mitsubishi of Fernando Rueda.
The Super 2000 Toyota emerged the clear winner of this contest, beating the turbo car by 53 seconds, while the sister machine of Etienne Lourens/Andre Vermeulen set the second fastest stage time, stopping the clocks 26 seconds faster than the most technologically advanced production car competing in South Africa.
“This victory is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the Castrol Toyota team”, said Serge at the Cape Town finish. “The car is impressive and this win comes as a result of lots of testing since the Natal rally. Nothing in life comes easy – it takes plenty of hard work and I’m glad for the Team”, Damseaux continued.
“My tally of wins is a milestone. I’m proud to be part of the sport’s history in South Africa. It’s been a long time coming”, said the ten times SA Driver’s Champion on surpassing the record held by rally legend Sarel van der Merwe.
Charl Wilken and Robin Houghton brought their new class A7 Castrol Toyota RunX RSi home in 7th overall and 4th in class. After running just one trouble-free stage in Natal last month, this was effectively Wilken’s first rally in the top front wheel drive class, and achieved his objective of building his experience of the car.
“The pace in class A7 is seriously hot”, says Wilken. “Our plan was to pace ourselves and learn more about the car. We had a traction problem, with the wheels spinning in 3rd and 4th gear”, he added.
Wilken and Houghton won the stage at the Killarney racetrack, but the official’s timing clocks malfunctioned and the stage was awarded to another competitor. “There are two tar stages on the next round, so I’m not too upset. We’ll be back”, Wilken concluded.
Wammy Haddad, Toyota Motorsport Manager was elated: “It was nerve wracking – but the first real benchmarking says the class will be successful. We have quite a bit more performance to come”, he added.
Toyota claimed an additional four class wins on the Toyota Dealer Rally: Craig Trott/John Costa (A6 Toyota Corolla), Michael Houghton/Bryn Doherty (A5 Motorola Toyota Tazz), Chris de Wit/Patrick Yende (N3 Toyota RunX RSi) and Aggie Stroh/Jurg Steyn (N2 NPS Team Oilflow Toyota Corolla).
These successes have opened Toyota’s lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship, where the marque is aiming for its 14th title in 2005.