Lydenburg, Saturday – Two Team Castrol Toyota Hilux teams ended a 13 year drought when they took a dramatic and controversial one/two result in the Production Vehicle category on the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.
Former South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin finished first and second to give the factory Toyota team its first win on a Toyota sponsored event since 1999 when Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton won the Toyota Desert Race in Botswana. Toyota supporters, however, had to endure an agonising wait to see if penalties imposed on the two works cars for deviating from the route would drop them down the pecking order.
Vos/Howie led home Taylor/Birkin and were then hit with a 10 minute and 38 second penalty for twice deviating from the route on the two loops that made up the route. That dropped them to fourth with Taylor and Howie hit with a five minute and 38 second penalty for the same offence.
Taylor and Howie, however, had enough time in hand to pip veteran former SA champion Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in the RFS BMW X3. The revised results lifted Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) into third place ahead of Vos and Howie with Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hiux) classified fifth.
Castrol Toyota team principal Glyn Hall then protested against the decision to penalise Vos and Howie. The stewards of the meeting upheld one portion of the protest and scrapped five minutes of the penalty.
That saw Vos and Howie reinstated as winners of the race ahead of Taylor/Birkin and Grobler/ter Stege who were only 13 seconds behind the Toyota crew. Labuscagne and Erasmus were relegated to fourth ahead of Venter and Palmer.
The results, however, are subject to an appeal to controlling body Motorsport South Africa. As such they are provisional.
Sixth place went to Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser) who scored their second successive Class D victory. Terence Marsh and George Smalberger (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and former SA champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Team Ford Ranger) completed the top eight.
For Visser/Badenhorst it was also an adventurous outing. A string of punctures left them stranded without a spare wheel and they dropped down the pecking order before Marsh and Smalberger came to their rescue.
The Nissan crew lent the Ford crew a spare and Visser and Badenhorst then mounted a comeback. Visser and Badenhorst were also among the string of competitors penalised by race officials for deviating from the route, but did enough to rescue crucial championship points after a win on the opening event of the season.
But penalty or no penalty Vos/Howie and Taylor/Birkin were totally dominant throughout the weekend. The two crews were first and third on the Donaldson Prologue that determined grid positions, and then romped away with the race.
Second to Weichelt, who now lives in Australia, and Smalberger in Class D were local pair Johan and Werner Horn in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser. Teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) showed a lot of character in overcoming a string of problems to finish third.
Class E saw Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) score a second successive victory. They were also among the crews penalised by clerk of the course Rex Boreham, but had plenty in hand over newcomers Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker in a Ford Ranger.