Sun City, Saturday – After the two factory teams had traded blows throughout the weekend the Team Castrol Toyota squad finally scored a technical knockout over Ford Racing in the Production Vehicle category on the Sun City 400, round five of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy scored their third victory in a row, and were followed home by reigning South African champions and team-mates Duncan Vos and Rob Howie. Ford Racing crews Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst and Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable were third and fourth with the Atlas Copco Nissan pairing of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau completing the top five.
The five crews finished in that order in the Friday qualifying session to determine grid positions. The win, however, sees Taylor and Murphy move into an unofficial 10 point lead over Visser/Badenhorst in both the overall and premier Class SP championship races after the crews started the day level pegging. Victory for Taylor and Murphy completed a perfect weekend for the pair who arrived in the Pilanesberg on the back of wins on the Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400 and Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race.
The pair also won the Friday qualifying race to make sure they started at the front of the field – a crucial factor on a fast and dusty route. “I guess you could say the race was won during qualifying,” said Taylor, “but Duncan and Rob pushed us all the way. Running at the front of the field mostly did away with the dust problem, but the pathfinder role is always difficult.
“Dennis did a great job the whole weekend and the two of us are working well in the car.” The only change in the pecking order among the first five came at the end of the first of two loops that made up the race. A small overshoot dropped Visser and Badenhorst behind Woolridge and Huxtable, with the status quo restored on the second loop.
Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4×4 Mega World/Trysome Toyota Hilux) produced their best performance of the season to finish sixth with former champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Hugo de Bruyn/Henri Hugo (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux completing the top eight.
De Bruyn and Hugo were then hit with a penalty for a jump start infringement that dropped them way down the pecking order. After a troubled qualifying that saw them start 34th on the road, Regent Racing Nissan Navara pair Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson suddenly found themselves in eighth place.
The pair produced one of the drives of the day, but only had 21 seconds to spare over veteran Archie Rutherford who had SuperSport presenter Derek Alberts sitting alongside him as celebrity co-driver in the Imperial Automotive Nissan Navara. The setback for de Bruyn and Hugo also elevated Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson into the top 10 in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.
Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser, were comfortable winners in Class D. The pair were over eight minutes ahead of a close battle for second and third between local crew Dana Vos and Henri de Kock (Vossies Toyota Hilux) and championship leaders Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann in the Trysome Toyota Hilux.
Vos and de Kock started second in class after the Friday qualifying with Venter and van Alleman in fifth place. The final scoring saw Vos and de Kock edge out Venter and van Alleman by only 26 seconds. Class E honours went to the Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux combination of Douglas Fear and Kurt de Villiers who were comfortably ahead of reigning drivers Dirk Putter and stand-in navigator Sarel Kriek. Putter and Kriek were the last of the classified finishers.