Defending production vehicle champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (class SP Castrol Team Toyota Hilux) are in an unfamiliar sixth place in the point standings after the first two rounds of the Donaldson South African Cross Country Championship and find themselves under some pressure this weekend (May 17 and 18) to repeat the form that saw them win three rounds and finish second in two on their way to the 2012 title.
The championship’s return to the Eston area of KwaZulu-Natal after an absence of some years for the popular Sugarbelt 400, now known as the Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400, will see both Vos and Howie and team-mates Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, currently fifth in the championship in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, in serious mode as they attempt to win their first event of the new season and improve their championship positions.
Team principal Glyn Hall acknowledged that the team was under a lot of pressure to get it right in this third round of the eight-event championship. “We’ve had the pace in the first two rounds – the RFS Magalies 400 in North West Province in March and the Nkomazi 400 in Mpumalanga in April – but we have struggled to achieve clean runs in the all-important Friday prologue.”
“Securing a good grid position for Saturday’s race is critical to a good result and both of our crews will be doing their best to achieve this in KZN. We’ve completed some useful testing between rounds and both drivers are happy with their vehicles after having a good opportunity to try them out.
“We need to score a lot of points this weekend to get us up to the sharp end of the championship,” said Hall.
Taylor, who was runner-up in last year’s championship, and new co-driver Murphy have 23 points from a fifth and a sixth and are 21 points behind current log leaders Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger), two points off third place.
“It hasn’t been the start to the season that I was hoping for,” admitted Taylor. “Things haven’t really gone our way in the prologue, where we’re usually very strong, so we’ll be concentrating on rectifying this. We have an added incentive to do well in our own event.”
Vos agreed with his team-mate that they had the vehicle and the technical support, but had been let down by poor Friday results.
“Robbie and I are really motivated for this race,” said Vos. “Although we only have 21 points from a 10th and a third, there is still a long way to go and we’ll be giving it all we’ve got in the remaining five rounds, starting with this weekend’s race. We have a strong, fast vehicle in the Toyota Hilux and the backing of the best team in the business, so don’t count us out just yet.”
The Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400 will be based at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club, not far from Toyota’s Prospecton vehicle assembly plant, and will consist of a 60-kilometre prologue on Friday (May 17), starting at 12:30, and two laps of a figure of eight race route, starting at 08:30 on Saturday and consisting of a 75-kilometre west loop and a 90-kilometre east loop. There will be a compulsory 15-minute halfway stop at the designated service park (DSP) at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club, which is also the site of the start and finish.
Toyota Motorsport Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Toyota Financial Services, Imperial Toyota Group, Innovation Group, Bosch, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, NGK, SKF and Spanjaard.