Toyotas filled four of the first six places after day one of the RFS Magalies 400, opening round of the Absa Off Road Car Championship, near Magaliesburg today.
Privateers Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) were quickest among the production vehicles, completing the 58 kilometre Donaldson prologue in a time of 41 min 31 sec. Third, just nine seconds behind the second-placed Ford Ranger of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, were Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus (Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux).
Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Toyota Hilux) were fourth and reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux were sixth in their International trucks Toyota Hilux.
Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the factory Castrol Team Toyota Hilux finished 10th after a conservative but trouble-free performance. “The route was through very long grass in places and we passed a couple of our rivals, who had stopped after hitting hidden rocks in the grass and damaged their wheels,” said former champion Vos. “We took a cautious approach after this, but we were obviously too cautious!”
Team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin in the second Castrol Team Toyota Hilux had the disadvantage of being first on the road and forced to open up the route for the rest of the field. They were lying second on corrected time behind Bertholdt and Rousseau when they hit a large rock at around the 45 kilometre mark that was concealed in the long grass and damaged the right front wheel, suspension upright, wishbone and drive shaft.
Their service crew is faced with a long night to repair the Toyota, which will have to start at the back of the 55-strong field of combined production and special vehicles in tomorrow’s 330 kilometre race, which will be run over three loops of 110 kilometres.
Bertholdt will start second on the road on Saturday behind the fastest of the special vehicles, the Revo Venom of Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen. Labuschagne will start 11th overall, Kock 12th, Jannie Visser 14th and Vos 22nd.
“Tomorrow’s a long day and we are expecting a testing route,” said Castrol Toyota team principal Glyn Hall. “If Duncan can keep out of trouble and set a good pace, we will pick up places and have a good chance of a top-three result. Anthony has a big challenge coming from the back of the field, but we know the two vehicles are strong and a clean run will see him move quickly up through the field.”
Saturday’s action starts at 08.30 from the Tarlton International Raceway, where the competitors will have a compulsory service stop after the second of the three loops, before finishing back at the Raceway early in the afternoon.