After weeks of build-up and hype, it was time to drop the flag at the inaugural race in the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa GR Cup.
The machine: Toyota’s WRC inspired GR Yaris. The location: Killarney International Raceway. The event: the first round of the National Tour.
It was all about to converge in a hunt for better times and cats. But before I could even hit the track, I was forced into a mission to rescue a stray cat trapped somewhere near the locker rooms. I could hear this poor animal meowing desperately. My ears perked up at the sound of the superbikes hurtling down the long straight behind the pits, but I just couldn’t locate it.
I went back to our pits and as I was telling my teammates about this poor kitty it came back up. With much laughter at my expense, it was pointed out to me that due to the layout of the track, the acoustics of the bikes whizzing past the front of the pits make a sound akin to a cat meowing! The locals know this all too well. I not so much.
But back to racing. As easy as it seems to quickly pilot a small four-wheel drive pocket rocket like the GR Yaris, it’s not that simple. Time comes from accurately going in and then using all the grip offered to get out.
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Add to this equation a bunch of guys and girls who don’t sulk behind the wheel of cars of equal power and weight, and you’ll realize that blowing past someone just isn’t going to happen.
Qualifying went well and based on practice times I was happy with a solid fourth place on the grid for Race 1. Despite improving my lap times each time, trying to hold on to Thomas Falkiner and defend for my life against Jeanette Kok -Kritzinger, in fourth place I would stay for both races.
Ashley Oldfield took the win ahead of racing legend Deon Joubert, as they passed times seen before the much-vaunted VW Polo Cup. And the rest of us mix it up with the young punks in pukka race cars.
All in all, I think it was a good result and a good omen for the rest of the season.
In closing I have to correct a misconception. These cars are not heavily modified. They are off-showroom cars, with semi-slick tires, upgraded brake pads, a racing seat and roll cage for safety, and the mufflers removed to make them sound more racer. There’s no software lurking on computer cases, trick suspension, or butchered interiors.
We still have electric windows, a full dashboard with a working sound system, Bluetooth and air conditioning. We could easily jump in and drive all the way home to Joburg after over 60 laps of racing, and this is a true testament to what the Toyota and GR brand are bringing to the party.
Race 2 is on April 24 at Zwartkops International Raceway.
For more information on the Toyota GR Yaris, click here.