Late last month Malcolm Read and I jetted off to Japan to compete in the Japanese Super Rally Series, a championship that includes international competitors and international spec rally cars. Its a four round series that started with the Snow Rally in Tsumagoi in February, APRC Montre and finishes next month with APRC Rally Hokkaido.
Yokote Rally is round three, located five hours north from Tokyo and near the top of the main island. To our surprise the summer in Japan was in full swing and above average conditions. It stayed above 32 degrees for every day of our trip and 35 plus was expected for the rally. Was this going to be another Malaysian style rally? Yes it was, for the next two days our fitness and endurance was tested to the max with crazy hot conditions inside the car and out!
After we completed the recce I was quietly confident that this was going to be a great gravel rally. The stages were typically twisty and mountainous. Often stages started at the bottom of a mountain and we had to go up and over to the finish. Luckily the surface had a nice hard base which was strange for Japan as usually the surface is very soft.
We started the rally the next day and headed to the first stage. During the liaison section I noticed a strange feeling and sound coming from the clutch. Then at the start line the clutch completely went. We now had to complete the remaining stages of Day one without it. We still managed to set the fastest time still on each stage but it wasn’t easy in the hot conditions.
Testing the new Cusco TRD C-HR. Both Photos: Mitsuru Kotake/RALLY PLUS
We survived Day One and then it was time for the Cusco mechanics to work their magic and change the clutch at the end of the day service. They did a fantastic job!
With our clutch fully functional, day two was much more enjoyable in terms of driving and performance. Conditions were still very hot but we won every stage and extended our lead to over 3 minutes. We even had time to stop in the last stage and pull out one of our team mates who was stuck in a ditch.
We went on to win the rally, our first victory in the Cusco TRD Yaris. It was a good reward for the Cusco TRD team who have worked really hard on the car over the past 2 years.
After the rally we headed back down to Takasaki where Cusco’s headquarters is located. We then went to the town of Nosowa to do three days of testing in the new Cusco TRD Toyota C-HR Rally car.
All I can say is wow what a cool experience, to be trusted with a brand new rally car to test and develop. It was an important test with a big support team on-hand including Cusco engineers and mechanics, engine technicians from TRD and tyre technicians from Dunlop.
Straight away I had a good feeling in the new car, it was easy to drive and very stable. All the hard work developing and learning from the Yaris in the last year has paid off. I look forward to sharing with you more information about the car when possible.
Next month is APRC Rally Hokkaido (20-22 Sept), one of my favourite rallies and one that I know very well – this will be my 9th Rally Hokkaido, its time to go for the overall win!!
Until next time