After weeks of build-up and hype, it was time for the flag to drop on the inaugural race in the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa GR Cup.
The machinery: Toyota’s WRC inspired GR Yaris. The venue: Killarney International Raceway. The event: the first round of the National Tour.
It was all about to come together in a chase for better times and cats. But before I could even get on the track, I was forced into a mission to save a stray cat stuck somewhere near the change rooms. I could hear this poor animal meowing in desperation. I strained my ears above the noise of the superbikes barreling down the long straight behind the pits, but I simply could not locate it.
I headed back to our pits, and while telling my team-mates about this poor cat, it piped up again. 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 cause a noise that sounds just like a cat meowing! The locals know this only too well. Me not so much.
But back to the racing. As easy as it looks to drive a little all-wheel drive pocket rocket like the GR Yaris fast, it’s not that simple. Time comes from being precise going in and then using all the grip on offer coming out.
Now add to this equation a bunch of guys and girls who are no mugs behind the wheel in equally powered and weighted cars, and you will realise that blowing past somebody is simply just not going to happen.
Qualifying went well and based on the practice times I was happy with a solid fourth on the grid for Race 1. Despite improving my lap times each time out, and trying to hang onto Thomas Falkiner and defending for my life against Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger, fourth was where I would remain for both races.
Ashley Oldfield brought home the win ahead of racing legend Deon Joubert, while doing times that would have seen them in front of the much-vaunted VW Polo Cup. And the rest of us mixing it up with the young punks in pukka race cars.
All in all, it was a good result in my opinion, and one that bodes well for the rest of the season.
In wrapping up I need to set a misconception straight. These cars are not highly modified. They are off-the-showroom-floor cars that run semi-slick tyres, upgraded brake pads, a race seat and a roll cage for safety, and the silencers have been removed to make them sound racier. There is no software lurking on computer boxes, trick suspension, or massacred interior.
We still have electric windows, a full dash with a working sound system, Bluetooth, and air conditioning. We could easily jump into them and drive all the way home to Joburg after doing more than 60 laps of racing, and this is a true testament to what the Toyota and the GR brand bring to the party.
Race 2 will be at Zwartkops International Raceway on 23 April.
For more information on the Toyota GR Yaris, c;lick here.