Weichelt/Smalberger (Toyota Land Cruiser) win class D
- Putter/Claassens (Toyota Hilux) win class E
Despite losing nearly 10 minutes after putting their Castrol Toyota Hilux on its side during the first half of the 350-kilometre race, Duncan Vos and Rob Howie fought back gamely to finish a creditable fourth in the 4×4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City on the East Rand this afternoon. In the process they managed to limit the damage to their title aspirations and now lead the points standings by a reduced margin of 24,5 from race winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger).
Vos and Howie had started the day from Carnival City in second place among the production vehicles after Visser and Badenhorst won Friday’s 43-kilometre prologue. They had caught Visser at the 90-kilometre mark on the first of the race’s two 173-kilometre loops and were trying to find a way past when Vos misjudged a tight left-hand corner on a rocky climb up a hill in Visser’s dust and turned in too soon, beaching the Toyota on top of some rocks on the inside of the corner.
“It all happened very slowly,” recounted Vos. “The momentum caused the bakkie to fall on to its right-hand side alongside the road. Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford were the first on the scene and very sportingly stopped to help. They pulled the Hilux back on its wheels with their tow strap. Unfortunately all four wheels were off the ground and it took us quite a while before we could jack up the bakkie and get it back on to the road.”
Vos and Howie managed to reach the compulsory halfway service stop at Carnival City in fifth place, where the Toyota Motorsport pit crew replaced a damaged rear suspension link, adjusted the toe-in and toe-out and tidied up the damaged bodywork.
They did their best to close the nearly nine-minute gap to the leading bakkie and got to within seven minutes with 30 kilometres to go when they were forced to stop with a flat wheel. They had time to change the wheel before the next bakkie arrived and managed to hold on to take fourth place.
Bertholdt and Pitchford were sixth in their privateer Toyota Hilux after reaching the halfway point in third place and then dropped back after stopping to replace a flat wheel.
Team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin were less fortunate. They started sixth after losing time in the prologue when their engine cut out in a hairpin bend and were running in fourth position when they hit a ditch in the road at the 78-kilometre mark and broke the right front upright.
“We’d already had two similar incidents and I think the cumulative effect of the three ‘hits’ was too much for the upright and the bolts sheared off,” Taylor explained.
Recording the team’s first non-finish of the season saw Taylor and Birkin drop from second to third in the championship with two rounds remaining, 10,5 points behind Visser and Badenhorst and 35 behind their team-mates.
While Visser and Badenhorst won class SP, victory in both the D and E classes went to Toyota privateers. Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger were 12th in their class D Toyota Land Cruiser, while Dirk Putter and Koos Claassens were 17th in their class E Toyota Hilux. Both crews lead their respective championships.
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.
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