MOTORSPORT: Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Yaris GR Cup: Diary of an untamed racing driver
Motorsport remains a passion of ours here at TopGear SA, so when the senior manager of Toyota’s Communications department gave us a call late last year to find out whether we would be keen to participate in the Yaris GR Cup, we didn’t hasten to agree in the affirmative. For those not in the know, the Yaris GR Cup is part of the National Extreme Festival race series, which sees 6 motoring journalists, including yours truly, participate in 7 races across various national racetracks.
So, why only 6 cars you might be wondering? Well, this is, at the moment, a brand building exercise to drum up some interest from private racers to take a keen interest and participate in the 2023 season. Also, it is a more feasible way of getting into a one-make race series, which is quite popular around the world, including here in Mzansi with VW having for years campaigned the Polo Cup and now the SupaCup series.
Racing under the auspices of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA banner, the Yaris GR Cup takes stock GR Yaris production cars that run stock engines and gearbox. The only major difference being the removal of the rear seat bench and front passenger seat. There is also the omission of sound deadening material, lowering the suspension, adding semi-slicks tyres and brake pads - that is just about it. Convenience items such as the climate control and infotainment screen remain in place, a stark reminder that this is a stock standard car built from the ground up as a racing homologation special.
Race 1, which took place on the 5th April 2022 took the at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town, was an eye-opener where I had to get to grips with not only the car, but also finding a rhythm as I hadn’t driven the track in more than a decade, so in essence I had to re-learn the track layout as it were. I admittedly struggled with pace, but this was largely due to the fact that this is in fact my very first race and I had to learn as I went along. Suffice to say, it was a steep learning curve, but one that yielded plenty of lessons that I could take to my next race. Killarney is a fast track for most part as we saw just over 200km/h on the back straight before jumping on the anchors for the hairpin. Throughout the race weekend, the car performed faultlessly This, once again, proves just how well-sorted the GR Yaris is straight out of the box and an excellent base for various forms of race applications.
Race 2, which was held on 23 April 2022 at the Zwartkops Raceway in Tshwane, was met with much fanfare by participants and spectators alike. Being the first season race on the Highveld, the atmosphere was absolutely electrifying, with a great turn out of people coming to watch a great day of motorsport. A relatively short track at 2.4km, the track is quite hard on brakes and one needs to adopt a driving technique that will allow you to preserve all the while extracting the maximum performance from them. At Zwartkops, we had 7 cars on the grid - which will be the norm from this event onward - as the seventh car will be commandeered by Toyota SA staff members. We managed to put our car 5th on the grid for qualifying, but after a rather botched starting sequence, we were relegated to 6th - a fault not of our own. Nevertheless, we fought hard and finished fifth overall, something myself and the team were satisfied with. I am thoroughly beginning to enjoy the season and look forward to an even better 3rd round on the 28th May 2022 at Aldo Scribante in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape.