- Toyota also 4th, 5th and 6th overall, first in classes SP, D and E and winner of manufacturers’ award
Seldom does a sponsor win its own event, but Toyota Motorsport broke a long-standing hoodoo dating back to the Toyota Desert Race in Botswana in 1999 when four-time national champion Duncan Vos and co-driver Rob Howie (Castrol Team Toyota Hilux) won the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga on Saturday. It was Vos’s 20th national championship off road victory.
The results are provisional as they are subject to an appeal to Motorsport South Africa.
Toyota’s joy was compounded by Castrol Toyota’s Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin finishing the 400-kilometre two-day event in second place in the second factory Hilux, 15 seconds behind their team-mates.
Third was the BMW X3 of Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege. Fourth, fifth and sixth places also went to Toyotas crewed by Pikkie Labuschagne/Rickus Erasmus (Ruwacon Racing Hilux), Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4×4 Megaworld Hilux) and Cliff Weichelt/Johann Smalberger (N1 4×4 Land Cruiser) respectively.
Vos and Howie won class SP, Weichelt and Smalberger won class D and Dirk Putter and Koos Claassens, who finished 11th overall in their Sizwe Toyota Hilux, won class E. The manufacturers’ award for the event went to Toyota (Vos/Howie, Taylor/Birkin and Labuschagne/Erasmus).
Vos and Howie now lead the championship with 36 points after the first two rounds, followed by Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger) with 33 points and Taylor/Birkin and Grobler/Ter Stege joint third with 25 points.
The Toyota Dealer 400 got off to a great start for Toyota on Friday from Lydenburg Toyota’s new state-of-the-art premises when Vos/Howie and Taylor/Birkin finished first and third in the 56-kilometre Donaldson prologue that determined the start order for Saturday’s 314-kilometre race. Toyotas also filled the top three places in class D and E.
Both the prologue and the race were held in hot and sunny conditions with thick dust and rock-strewn tracks in several mountainous areas around the Lydenburg, Roossenekal and Machadodorp areas providing a stern test for over 50 entries in the second round of the Absa Off Road Championship.
The tough conditions took their toll and just 16 production vehicles (including nine Toyotas) out of 28 starters and 16 special vehicles out of 26 starters completed the event, which ended back at Lydenburg Toyota.
“Our Dakar proven Hilux bakkies performed faultlessly throughout the two days,” said a delighted Castrol Toyota team principal Glyn Hall. “Both crews showed their class under very difficult conditions to record a long overdue success for Toyota in an event they have sponsored for 10 years.
“Congratulations and thank you to the Toyota privateers for another strong showing, which helped us to win the manufacturers’ award and made a valuable contribution towards Toyota retaining the manufacturers’ championship it won in 2011.”
The next round of the Absa Off Road Championship is the Atlas Copco 400 in KwaZulu-Natal on May 18 and 19.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Innovation Group, NGK, Imperial Group, SKF, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.