Well what a year!
Many up and down moments, fast stage times but then some rally retirements too.
This year was always about development and it was our focus from day one. It was a cool experience to take a brand new rally car and put it through its paces.
The CUSCO Toyota Vitz Rally car went from a workshop in Japan to winning stages outright in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. Sure we had car troubles and mechanical problems during the rallies but it was great learning and testing for our team.
There were many great highlights over the year, the first one being the first three stages at the International Rally Whangarei, where we were 2nd overall in front of all the New Zealand AP4 cars, except for WRC driver Hayden Paddon.
Next was winning a stage outright at Rally Hokkaido against all the local Japanese drivers. Not only was it a surprise for me but it was a very proud moment for Cusco Racing and TRD since it was their home event. Out of the eight stages we finished, we won four of them.
My favourite highlight of the year was at Rally China where we managed a second fastest time against the 500hp Monster's in the local Chinese championship. Better yet it was on tarmac!
While it was a ‘testing’ year for me as a driver, it was definitely a trial for my mechanic.....sorry co-driver Malcolm Read. He spent more time working underneath the car than reading the pace-notes, but that’s why he’s known as ‘spanner-man’ or ‘Mr Fix-it’. The highlight of Malcolm’s clever endeavours has to be Rally Hokkaido where he repaired our broken suspension using a spanner as a spacer to hold it all together....we won the next stage!
It was great to visit Japan earlier this month and catch-up with everyone at Cusco and SRI Dunlop. We came away with plenty of optimism and options for the future, and plan to announce our full programme early in the New-Year.
We will continue to work with Cusco and TRD on the Toyota Yaris - our first event in 2019 is the Snow Rally near Cusco’s headquarters in Gunma, followed by events in FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship!
You may have seen many changes for the APRC next year and a completely new format. It will be an interesting year for sure.
Until then have a Merry Christmas and Happy new year!