The Team Castrol Toyota pair of Duncan Vos and Rob Howie scored their second win in a row and increased their lead in the overall Production Vehicle and premier SP Class championships with a commanding performance in the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Richmond on Saturday.
Former South African champion Vos and Howie, in a Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, came home 2 minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. Vos/Howie started behind team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, who won the Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions, but were quickly into the lead when the second Castrol Hilux picked up a puncture.
It was a lead Vos and Howie were never to relinquish as they went on to dominate a race cut short by sporadic drizzle, mist and fog. The conditions forced race officials to cut out a chunk of the second of the two 175 kilometre loops that made up the race.
Third place went to local favourite Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder (PS Laser Nissan Navara) with Taylor and Birkin holding on for fourth place, their pace being further affected by a brake problem.
“We are very happy,” said Toyota Motorsport team principal Glyn Hall. “It was a dominant performance from Duncan and Rob who were in control of the race from the moment they went into the lead.
“For their part Anthony and Chris came up with a gutsy performance and scored useful championship points. Although he was feeling under par Anthony stuck to his guns and it was a professional performance. It was a very difficult route and with the race run in tricky conditions both crews deserve praise.”
Ferdi de Vos, Toyota South Africa’s general manager for motorsport, congratulated the Atlas Copco Hilux crew Gary Berthold and Ralph Pitchford on their performance. “Being runners up in their Hilux V8 in only their third outing together is a fantastic result, made even more so by achieving it in their own event.
“The contribution by privateer Toyota crews in the national off-road series cannot be underestimated in our efforts to win the manufacturers challenge,” he added.
Toyota took a second victory when Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser, won Class D. The Horns came in ahead of championship leaders Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser) who suffered from a spate of punctures.
For the second race in a row Toyota won the Manufacturers Award but an act of sportsmanship denied it another clean sweep of category wins. Local crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) won Class E ahead of championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Elite Toyota Hilux), but they stopped to help former SA champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT) who ran into alternator problems and were blocking the road, while leading the class.
The time lost saw Putter/Claasens, who won the first two events of the season, finish less than 25 seconds behind the KwaZulu-Natal crew.
The next race in the Absa championship is the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the only marathon event on the calendar, in Botswana from June 22 to 24.