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The alarm rings early. It is a quarter past five and I jump out of bed immediately. The boyish elation and coffee make that morning dawn has gold in your mouth. Belgian gold, because Toyota adept Ron Moës approached his Flemish contacts and arranged a jewel of a report. In Dendermonde, Belgium, we go back to the early years of Toyota's rally history. Benny Heuvinck, Tony de Wolf, Claude Holvoet and Ron guide us through that beautiful history. And they don't miss a single turn.
The distance from Leeuwarden to Wolvega is a piece of cake. At Van der Valk I step into the Qashqai with photographer Bart Spijker. The first stopover is the parking lot at the Burger King on the A27 near Houten, where Ron Moës will be waiting with his impressive Hi-Lux. Seeing each other for a moment was never done before, the contacts were mainly digital. We drive from there to Dendermonde.
After a few hours we are there, and the Flemish Toyota enthusiasts receive us at Toyota dealer Holvoet. Benny and Tony brought their great and 200% correct Corolla rally replicas. Benny's TE-27 Levin replica is beautiful, Tony's Corolla Wide Body built from scratch with a 3SG-E engine and 204 HP is. They sparkle in the sunlight and take breath away. This also applies to the collection in the Holvoet building. Back to the Toyota past tastes sweet, here are Japanese kings from the sixties, seventies and eighties. The phenomenal RT55 1600 GT and its successor tell how sportsmanship used to look at Toyota, also several Celica's in race trim do that. Feast.
Historic Twin-Cam blocks are unfolding. “You only see some things once in your life,” says Ron as we consider a 4T-GTE block under construction. Only a handful were built for homologation. The RA29 imported from America is also something special. That is the 2190 cc Celica Liftback version. Toyota built it exclusively for the US and Canada and got the 2.2 liter 20R engine. In the meantime Benny Heuvinck whispers to me that I also have a few things to tell Claude. And that is quite a lot, certainly in today's perspective Claude is a great Toyota gentleman, who, incidentally, very modestly drives a Yaris D-4D.
Time for the interview, in a Japanese column we drive to 't Ateljeeken, close to the Scheldt. This is Flemish style, a terrace in the wonderful late summer air exudes Burgundian atmospheres and we participate. Keep watch on the dike at the friendly catering establishment the two Benny and Tony and the Toyotas never hide their aspirations. Stubborn, powerfully built, charismatic. As if they are eager to eat the next historic WRC rally.
An hour of lunch is almost impossible in Belgium, because it is too short. Here we dine for a long time with bouncer, coffee, spaghetti, Leffe and other refreshments. And with Toyota men, who share a cartload of knowledge. It's just the tip of the iceberg. The scene unfolds pleasantly in the place, where the beautiful company reveals the important Belgian roots of Toyota's rally sage.
Ove Andersson often comes by, a big. He drove himself and was the man behind the successes for decades later. And the way to it. We hear the laughs from the past. Because there are many anecdotes. Stories about the period before and from Andersson Motorsport, followed by the TTE history. No, I'm not telling anything now, except that Belgium was a bright red thread in it. In the foreseeable future we will reveal everything in the magazine.
This report fits in the personal list of crown jewels. Thanks to the Toyotas from the time when they were not so long in Europe. And certainly also thanks to the amiable hosts at the table. I have had doubts about Belgium. Because everyone there is smiling. Henk and Henk whisper it to me invisibly. I feel at home in Flanders. In a mix of soft language and down-to-earth Utrecht, the stories just keep on coming, enthusiastic but modest. Modesty, which every Toyota fan should throw off. Because Toyota has a heritage to be proud of. And it is time for it not only to be recognized, but also to be recognized. We agree wholeheartedly at the table.
It's time for the photos, I keep driving shoot one van Bart and Benny Heuvinck in his Corolla, the exact copy of the TE-27 Levin with which Ove Andersson and Arne Hertz drove the 1974 RAC rally. Only once did the Corolla rally in this outfit. Toyota rally guru Benny Heuvinck copied it, down to the last detail. I am now under the roof that Andersson signed. The seat belts are not necessary, because Benny's masterful driving skills and the rapid power delivery of the powerful 1.8 engine in this literally unique Toyota klem in the tubs.
175 horses work their way around, the work ethic is good. And all the technology is audible. This is real rally specification work. Short blows, get up to speed quickly, high stiffness and unfiltered engine noise provide excitement. And it comes up one more time later - on a cobbled road near Dendermonde. Boom. Boom. Tony de Wolf and Benny Heuvinck thunder over the cobblestones with their beautiful Corollas, a cool sight. Bart's photos, they are top, it was the day too. Impressions slowly find their way, Bart and I find our way back to the North of the Netherlands in peace. Last can be beautiful, very beautiful.
Toyota takes Le Mans and the one day after the fantastic report in Flanders WRC rally of Turkey. Fascinating that I was allowed to be very close to the genesis of this supremacy the day before. And gave impressions that ensure that I stay wide awake for a long time. 23 hours after the alarm clock went off in Leeuwarden, I finally go to bed. It was such a day. To be continued. And how!
Many thanks to Ron Moës, Benny Heuvinck, Tony de Wolf, Claude Holvoet and Bart Spijker
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