TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa's (TGRSA) National Rally Championship (NRC) team showcased their potential during the recent Billy te Water Memorial Rally, the opening round of the highly anticipated 2023 NRC season. The team's two crews, Jono van Wyk and Nico Swartz, as well as Mandla Mdakane and Kes Naidoo, demonstrated skill, determination, and resilience in their Toyota Starlet rally cars, to put the first points on the board for the team.
Jono van Wyk, popularly known as the Swazi Cowboy, and navigator Nico Swartz, now competing under the TGRSA banner, delivered an impressive performance in their maiden race with the new Toyota Starlet. Despite the challenges of adapting to the left-hand-drive configuration and negotiating the rally's narrower sections, they exhibited excellent driving skills, securing stage wins and showing their competitive spirit.
Although a puncture on the second day cost them some time, they managed to secure third place on both days, consolidating their position in the championship.
Mandla Mdakane, another talented member of the TGRSA NRC team, faced mechanical challenges throughout the weekend. Despite starting strong, a broken engine mount led to power-steering pump issues, impacting his performance during Stage 1 and ultimately forcing him to retire during Stage 2.
The TGRSA technical crew worked tirelessly overnight to repair the car, but unforeseen complications arising from the broken engine mount led to further difficulties. The crew’s progress was further complicated by an overheating problem caused by tests on the anti-lag system of the turbo. Despite these setbacks, Mdakane and Naidoo’s pace throughout the weekend highlighted their potential as formidable competitors in future races.
Reflecting on the team's performance, Guy Botterill, Team Manager of TGRSA, expressed his satisfaction with the progress made during the Billy te Water Memorial Rally. Botterill stated: "Jono did an amazing job, securing valuable points for the team. Mandla's challenges didn't truly reflect his pace throughout the weekend, and we are confident that he will emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the future."
With the first round behind them, the TGRSA NRC team now turns its focus to the upcoming Algoa Rally, scheduled to take place in Jeffreys Bay on July 7-8, 2023. The team remains determined and eager to build on their early successes, striving for further achievements in the championship.