Toyota Motorsport would like nothing better than to go to the Dakar Rally in South America in January as the 2012 South African off road champions. This accolade is almost within their grasp as the Absa South African Off Road Car Championship reaches its climax in the Westonaria region of Gauteng on Friday and Saturday.
Multiple former champion Duncan Vos and co-driver Rob Howie (Castrol Team Toyota Hilux), who finished 10th in the 2012 Dakar Rally at their first attempt, lead the production vehicle category by 18,5 points from nearest challengers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger). There is a maximum of 25 points on offer.
After dominating the first half of the season with three wins in the first four races, including the prize accomplishment of winning the marathon Toyota Desert Race in Botswana, Vos and Howie enjoyed a comfortable 40.5-point lead over Visser and Badenhorst. Taylor and Birkin were second, 30 points behind their team-mates and 7.5 ahead of the Ford pair.
Consecutive victories for Visser and Badenhorst in the last two rounds saw the 2010 champions leapfrog Taylor and Birkin and reduce Vos and Howie’s lead reduced to 18.5 points. Competitors are required to drop their lowest score of the season and if this was to be done now Visser and Badenhorst would benefit by two points.
“The bottom line is that we must finish no lower than seventh (worth nine points) if Chris wins the last race,” said Vos, who is seeking his fifth title and first with Toyota. “We won’t be taking anything for granted and we realise that to win we’re going to first have to finish.”
Taylor and Birkin, with no further interest in the championship title, will be keen to score their first win of the year after being the dominant competitors in the Friday Donaldson prologue that determines the start order for Saturday’s race.
“We haven’t been able to convert some good prologue results into race wins and this has been frustrating,” admits Taylor. “Much as Chris and I would like a win, our job is to help Duncan take the title and we’ll be doing our best to finish ahead of Chris and Japie.”
Team principal Glyn Hall has been there before and has nine championships in nine years to show for it. “We’re very close to pulling this off and it will be a major disappointment to the entire team if it doesn’t happen. We’ve made great progress with the development of the current Toyota Hilux since it made its debut at the beginning of 2011. It’s proved itself to be the vehicle to beat and we’ll be doing everything we can to demonstrate this once more this weekend.”
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie, some 70 kilometres west of Johannesburg. The Donaldson Prologue will be run over a 60 kilometre route and will start at 12.30 on Friday.
Saturday’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 Highveld 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.