World Rally Championship co-driver Aaron Johnston has said he will remember his Safari Rally Kenya adventure which ended with him being part of a famous Toyota 1-2-3-4 for the rest of his life.
Johnston – team-mate to Takamoto Katsuta – completed round six of the World Rally Championship third overall after three punishing days that took crews deep into the heart of the country’s unforgiving savanna.
The duo overcame a puncture, an overshoot and an eleventh-hour gearbox oil leak to seal the result. They also had to convince rally stewards to issue them with a corrected time for the last stage on Friday afternoon.
Footage showed them being slowed by the low-hanging dust of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle’s Ford Puma as it limped through ‘Kedong 2’ with suspension damage. As a result, an amended time was agreed by officials that was 10 seconds faster than the original one Katsuta posted at the end of the 19.35-mile test.
Kalle Rovanpera won in Kenya to extend his advantage in the World Rally Championship standings to 65 points over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and lead home a quartet of Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris Rally1 cars – 29 years after the Japanese company first achieved the historic feat at the same event.
Citroen is the only other manufacturer to have managed a 1-2-3-4 in the World Rally Championship; that happened at Rally Bulgaria in 2010.
“It’s a very special weekend for me,” said Johnston. “It’s my first WRC podium and I don’t think we could have done it in any more style than we did.
“It has been a long time since this has last happened, so to be there and to be on the podium for the first time in these circumstances on such a demanding event like Safari, it is very special and one I will remember for the rest of my life for sure.
“When everything is said and done, the only thing that really matters is the history, so to be there, on the podium in Kenya with Taka – a young Japanese talent, with a Japanese manufacturer – it’s special.
“But look, we are both still young. We both have big dreams and I think we are on the right path with the right team and the right guys around us.
“We will keep pushing and hopefully we can keep achieving some more results like this going forward. Like I said: to achieve this is a dream come true for me,” he added.