CASTROL TOYOTA PAIR SPRING DESERT RACE SURPRISE
Gaborone, Friday – The factory Castrol Toyota team today got the result they wanted on the prologue to determine grid positions for this weekend’s Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, but it came from an unlikely source.
The fastest time went to Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, members of the Castrol Toyota rally team, who were called in to bolster the regular factory combinations of reigning South African champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy with all three crews out in Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries. On a day when regular works crews Vos/Howie and Taylor Murphy had to take a back seat, Poulter and Coetzee stormed to a convincing win over two North West combinations.
The Castrol Toyota pair were 36 seconds ahead of Hugo de Bruyn and Henri Hugo, in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux, with Malcolm Kock and Johann Burger a further 22 seconds in arrears in the Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux. De Bruyn and Kock cut their racing teeth in conditions similar to those found on the Botswana classic and were perfectly at home in leading the privateer brigade.
“We were a little surprised to find ourselves in this position but we had a good run,” said Coetzee who is the daughter of former two-time Desert Race winner Kassie Coetzee. “We had no problems but the race is not going to be as easy.”
A third privateer team, Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, were fourth after a solid run with the pair just six seconds ahead of Taylor and Murphy. The surprises, however, did not end with Poulter/Coetzee although, to be fair, the multi talented Poulter does have some previous cross country experience in Class E.
Sixth place went to Dakar Rally quad racing hero Sarel von Biljon, on his cross country debut, and Phillip Herselman in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux previously campaigned by Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau. Von Biljon and Herselman were eight seconds adrift of Taylor/Murphy, but scored a point or two by coming in four seconds ahead of the experienced Bertholdt and Rousseau who are having their first outing in the new V8 powered Atlas Copco Nissan Navara.
A steady run took former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the works Ford Racing Ranger, into eighth place ahead of Vos and Howie who ended a Toyota drought of more than a decade when they won last year’s race. There were six seconds between Visser/Badenhorst and Vos/Howie, with the top 10 completed by the RFS BMW X3 of Christiaan du Plooy and veteran former SA champion Hennie ter Stege, who has come out of retirement to stand in for Henk Janse van Vuuren whose wife is expecting a baby.
Former Desert Race winners Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser, were the first of the Class D entrants. They were comfortably ahead of North West youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann (Trysome Toyota Hilux) with former SA champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) in third place.
After a hiccup last time out when they suffered their first non finish it was business as usual for Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens, in a Ford Ranger, in Class E. The reigning SA champions had a sizeable advantage over Douglas Fear and Kurt de Villiers, in the Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux, with Force Fuel Toyota Hilux pair Luke Botha and Kevin Durston bouncing back from a roll on the last event to come in third.
The race starts tomorrow at 08:00 from the village of Kumakwane about 25 kilometres north-west of Gaborone. Race headquarters and the designated service park are also based in Kumakwane.