The 2021 motorsport season is about to kick off, and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA will be competing in three disciplines. The team will aim to defend its titles in the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) as well as the South African National Rally Championship (NRC); and will be mounting a title challenge in the Global Touring Cars (GTC) Champhionship.
“Motorsport plays a key role in our marketing strategy,” says Toyota South Africa Motors Vice President: Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “Our approach for the 2021 season allows us to showcase not only our tough and reliable Class FIA Hilux, but also the Toyota Corolla on the track.”
The NRC will see defending champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle return to action, this time behind the wheel of a locally built Class R4N Toyota Starlet. The pair will also compete in several rounds of the African Rally Championship (ARC).
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s first race for the season is the opening round of the GTC Championship, which takes place on March 20th at the Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town.
With that said, Guy Botterill will be in action at the Barberspan 300 this weekend, behind the wheel of the Class FIA Toyota Hilux. This will be Botterill’s first outing in the cross-country Hilux, and he will have Brett Cummings in the car, reading the notes.
“We’ve decided to give Guy the opportunity to experience the Hilux in race conditions, since Henk Lategan’s shoulder isn’t fully healed yet after he underwent surgery to make repairs after his crash at Dakar earlier this year,” says TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “Guy has been keen on cross-country racing for some time now, and with Lategan side-lined for the next few weeks, he was the obvious choice to do stand-in duty in the Hilux.”
This weekend’s Barbersban 300, part of the Northern Regions Championship, will offer Botterill the chance to get to grips with the Hilux, but also to familiarise himself with the race format, which is similar to that of the Mpumalanga 400, Round 1 of the SACCS, where he will also be fielding the Hilux.
“Overall, we are looking forward tremendously to the 2021 motorsport season,” concludes Crompton. “The three different disciplines offer us the opportunity to demonstrate the reliability of all our products, and we will be aiming to continue our winning ways on racetracks, rally stages and the tough cross-country routes that play a key role in the development of our Dakar Hilux.”
SOUTH AFRICAN CROSS-COUNTRY SERIES
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA will again be fielding a three-car team for the 2021 SACCS season. The team will be spear-headed by double defending champions Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings, though Lategan will sit out the opening round of the championship while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Dakar stalwart and multiple former champion Giniel de Villiers will again be in action, this time with Dennis Murphy beside him in the Hilux. Murphy, himself a multiple national champion, is no stranger to the hotseat in De Villiers’ car, having previously navigated for him in the SACCS. The pair will be looking to capitalise on Lategan missing the opening round, and is sure to push hard throughout the season.
With Murphy moving into the car with De Villiers, there is a vacant seat next to Shameer Variawa in the third Toyota Hilux. The businessman, who successfully completed the 2021 Dakar Rally with Murphy, will have to contend with a new navigator for the SACCS, but an announcement in this regard will be made in due course.
The first race of the 2021 SACCS is the Mpumalanga 400, which takes place in the area around the town of Dullstroom on the weekend of 26-27 March. Next up is a visit to KwazuluNatal for the Sugarbelt 400 on 21-22 May; before the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race on 18-20 June, which will take place in the area around Upington for the first time.
Rounds 4 and 5 will be run consecutively on 13 and 14 August as the Vryburg 400 in the North West Province; with the Nampo 400 set for 1-2 October, in the Free State. The final round for the 2021 season will be the Parys 400, which is scheduled to take place on 13 November, again following a single day format, similar to that of the 2020 race.
“The SACCS remains a key component in our continued development of the Dakar Toyota Hilux,” explains Hall. “With some exciting rule changes on the horizon, our local series may again prove pivotal when we take on the very best drivers and cars globally at the Dakar Rally.”
The 2021 South African National Rally Championship will see TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s Botterill and Vacy-Lyle defend their title yet again. The pair has been dominating the local rally championship in their Toyota Etios, but will be building a Class R4N Toyota Starlet for the future.
“The decision to build our own car is quite a big one,” explains Botterill, “but in an effort to bring the costs down, not only for us but also other teams who might want to enter into the new, competitive Class R4, we felt that it was imperative to come up with a local solution, rather than relying on cars bought from abroad.”
The new car will be based on the Class R4 regulations from the World Rally Championship. However, certain components will be replaced with local units in order to keep the costs down, and as such the locally produced versions will be known as Class R4N cars, with the ‘N’ indicating that the cars conform to the South African national specifications.
“We are not entirely sure when the new car will be ready for competition,” says Botterill. “There’s still a mass of work to be done, but we are excited to enter a completely new, locally-built, car in the championship. In the meantime, we will compete in various cars in order to accommodate both our local and international schedule.”
This year’s NRC will consist of 12 rounds, with each race weekend hosting two rounds of the championship. This will allow competitors to score points on each day separately, giving them the opportunity to remain competitive even if they have to withdraw on one of the days of the race weekend.
Rounds 1 & 2 are in Delmas, with Rounds 3 & 4 following on the weekend of 21-22 May, at a venue that is still to be announced. Rounds 5 & 6 follow in Port Elizabeth on 16-17 July; with Rounds 7 & 8 taking place on 3-4 September in the Mpumalanga town of Secunda. Next up is Rounds 9-10 on 8-9 October, though the venue has not been finalised yet; before the season draws to a close on 5-6 November in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga.
Botterill and Vacy-Lyle will also be taking part in the 2021 African Rally Championship, which includes a round of the World Rally Championship in Kenya, later in the year.
GLOBAL TOURING CARS
The 2020 GTC season was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the pandemic rages on globally, the 2021 GTC season promises to pick up where things ended in 2019 – with Michael van Rooyen in a tight battle for the title.
As it happened, Van Rooyen narrowly missed out on his first GTC championship during the last race of the season. The Rustenburg Rocket, as he is also known, will be aiming to rectify that during the 2021 season.
“We’ve done a lot of work to our Corolla during the off-season, and we’re excited to see how we measure up to the competition this year,” says Van Rooyen. “Our first race will be at Killarney later this month, and we hope for a strong start to the season.”
Van Rooyen will again be partnered by Mandla Mdakane, in a second Toyota Corolla. Mdakane showed promising pace during the limited races he took part in during 2020, but issues with misfires hampered his progress. The experienced track racer will be looking to get his teeth into the championship this year.
The season starts at the Killarney International Raceway on 20 March, with Round 2 of the championship slated for 17 April, at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria. Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth will host Round 3 on 29 May; while the East London GP will do the same for Round 4 on 3 July. The championship heads back inland for Round 5, at the Red Star Raceway near Delmas, before returning to the Killarney International Raceway for Round 6 of 25 September. The seven-round season is set to conclude on 23 October, at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria.