“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 FIA 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 favorite 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 endeavors 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 finish off the year with a visit to Japan earlier this month to catch-up with everyone at Cusco and SRI Dunlop. We came away with plenty of optimism and will announce our full programme early in the New-Year.
For 2019 we look forward to working with the team at Cusco, Dunlop and TRD, driving the Toyota Yaris on selected events in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and plan some other rallies and races too. It will be an interesting year for sure.
Until then have a Merry Christmas and Happy new year!