South African Rally – Production Vehicle title battle lines are drawn
A second successive Production Vehicle category win for Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy on the recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, has drawn the battle lines for the last four events of the season.
Victory in the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux not only gave Toyota successive triumphs on their own event, but propelled Taylor and Murphy into a tie with the Ford Racing pair of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in both the Production Vehicle overall and Class SP title races. With the Botswana event worth points and a half, Taylor and Murphy made up a 15 point deficit on for South African champions Visser and Badenhorst.
Taylor/Murphy and Visser Badenhorst are locked together on 85,5 points and have a 31,5 advantage over third placed Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the second Team Castrol Toyota Hilux. Vos and Howie, who finished the Desert Race in fourth place behind Visser and Badenhorst, are the reigning SA champions and won the event last year.
The points allocation for the event saw a dramatic move up the overall championship table by Hugo de Bruyn and Henri Hugo (Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) who finished second to Taylor and Murphy. After failing to pick up a point prior to the Botswana event, de Bruyn and Hugo climbed from 24th to seventh.
A solid result in Botswana took Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux crew Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson into the top five ahead of day one casualties Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux), who rescued half a point when they rejoined the race on the final racing section.
Among those to miss out altogether on valuable points were Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau who did not have a happy debut in the new Atlas Copco Nissan Navara, Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), an ill Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in the second Ford Racing Ranger, and Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara.
There was no change in the pecking order in Class D although a third win in four events took North West youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann (Trysome Toyota Hilux) to within three points of former champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the LMC Land Rover.
The Oosthuizens suffered a rare non finish in Botswana and were joined on the sidelines by Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser.
The status quo remained unaltered in Class E with reigning champions Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Ford Ranger) tightening their hold on this year’s championship. They were the only Class E crew to see out the distance on the Desert Race and have now finished 15 of their last 17 outings.
The Sun City 400 in the Pilanesberg on July 26 and 27 will see a resumption of the battle between the Castrol Toyota and Ford Racing factory teams. After two wins in a row Taylor and Murphy will be on a high, but Visser/Badenhorst have scored four successive podium finishes this season and it adds up to a fascinating encounter.