Championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (Castrol Team Toyota Hilux) will start tomorrow’s Gold 400, the final round of the Absa South African Off Road Championship, in third place following today’s 57-kilometre Donaldson prologue in the Westonaria region of the West Rand.
The prologue, which determines the start order for tomorrow’s 360-kilometre race and counts towards the overall result, was won by privateers Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford (Toyota Hilux) from Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in a Ford Ranger.
Vos and Howie are leading the production vehicle category from Visser and Badenhorst and even if they fail to finish and score no points, they will win the championship even if Visser and Badenhorst win the race.
“We have accumulated enough points to secure the overall championship,” Vos, a four-time former champion confirmed. “However, we would also like to win the Special Production class so that we can carry the number 1 on the Castrol Toyota next season. There is a different scoring system for the classes to the overall championship. If Chris and Japie win the class in tomorrow’s race, we have to finish at least fifth. However, if they don’t win we are home and dry.
“So there’s still a lot to fight for tomorrow and Robbie and I will be doing our best to bring the class as well as the overall championship home for Toyota.”
Castrol Toyota team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin will start fourth tomorrow after returning the fourth-fastest time in today’s prologue. They are effectively out of the championship reckoning, but in a secure third place overall, and are chasing their first win of the season. They would like nothing better than to achieve this on Saturday, which would assure Vos and Howie of both the overall and class championships.
Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan gave the 2013 Dakar Rally Imperial Toyota Hilux a valuable outing in today’s prologue, running unofficially five minutes ahead of the production vehicle field. It was the 2009 Dakar Rally champion’s first outing in the SA championship since 2002 and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The purpose of our being here today is to give the newly-built evolution Dakar Hilux a thorough test under racing conditions before the rally in South America in January,” said De Villiers. “We are not competing in the race and have special permission from the Off Road Racing Commission to run ahead of the field.
“We were happy with our pace, although we weren’t really pushing it to the maximum, and there were no major problems. We lost some time with a faulty odometer, which made it difficult for Francois to a keep us on the route, but this is not the equipment we will be using in the Dakar.
“Tomorrow’s 360-kilometre race will be the biggest challenge the new Hilux has faced to date and we’re looking forward to the test and getting some valuable feedback ahead of the Dakar in January. We’ll be starting 15 minutes ahead of the field tomorrow so that we don’t interfere with the race in any way.”
Tomorrow’s race will start at 08.30 and will cover two loops of a 180 kilometre route that is expected to provide a challenging mixture of fast open sections along firebreaks with rocky technical sections in the West Rand koppies.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Innovation Group, Imperial Toyota Group, NGK, Ferodo, SKF, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.
Follow the fortunes of the Castrol Team Toyota and Imperial Toyota rally teams on Twitter, twitter.com/toyotalive.