The Castrol Toyota RunX RSi pairing vaulted into a 20-point lead on the overall points standings after claiming their fourth consecutive victory this year, a feat not achieved since 1999. This was also the duo’s third consecutive victory on their nemesis’ home turf.
Serge and Robert were embroiled in a fierce contest with the factory BP Volkswagen squad, before both hit problems early in the event, forcing the retirement of Jan Habig/Douglas Judd and delaying Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson.
After ten special stages making up day one’s action, Damseaux and Paisley were a single second ahead of their rivals (the second event in a row to feature this result at the end of the first day).
Serge was in scintillating form in stage 11, the first of Saturday. He annihilated Kuun with a time 48 seconds faster than his rival over just 29,36km! “That was one of the best stages of my career”, said an elated Damseaux at the Port Elizabeth finish. “Every corner, every line was absolutely perfect”.
A thrilling cat-and-mouse game followed, as Kuun pulled back 13 seconds in stage 12. Damseaux retaliated by slicing another eleven seconds off Kuun in the following test through the Longmore forest complex.
After the 14th stage, it was all over bar the shouting as the Volkswagen suffered a suspension failure that cost its crew nearly two minutes. With the pressure off, Serge and Robert backed off over the remaining three stages to ensure their win.
In class A7, Charl Wilken and Robin Houghton held a solid 2nd in class until stage 11, when the Castrol Toyota RunX hit a sump rock in the stage that launched the car into the air. The RunX landed with two wheels off the edge of the road and in spite of Wilken’s best attempts to save the situation, the car ended up off the road and out of the rally.
“It was a long, uphill sweep. We were flat in third gear. As we went over the rise, the car’s suspension bottomed on landing – the skidplate hit some rocks buried in the road surface and they launched us into orbit. It happened so quickly”, Wilken related.
The RunX landed up on its side, bushes preventing the car from rolling over completely. “I tried to power it out, but our momentum was too fast – we were lucky – we went between two trees”, Wilken added.
“It was a hard battle this weekend, which we expected”, said Wammy Haddad, Toyota’s Motorsport Manager. “The roads are hard on the cars, so we have to monitor everything at every service to make sure we don’t experience any problems.”
“It was a great result, and you have to feel a bit sorry for Volkswagen on their home event”, he added.
Toyota achieved another clean sweep, winning all six classes in which it competes:
• Super 2000: Serge Damseaux/Robert Paisley (Castrol Toyota RunX RSi) • A7 Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Cobus Vrey (Toyota RunX RSi) • A6 Craig Trott/John Costa (Toyota Corolla RSi) • A5 Etienne Malherbe/Hennie Botes (Crosley Car Hire Toyota Tazz) • N3 Jon and Douglas Williams (GijimaAst Toyota RunX RSi) • N2 Mike Nathan/Graham Hooper (CVT Toyota Corolla RSi)
Toyota is well ahead of all its rivals in the chase for the Manufacturer’s Championship, with three rounds of the 2005 season remaining.
The Osram Rally, round six of the series, takes place in the Bloemfontein and Dewetsdorp areas of the Free State on 20 August.