Harrismith, Saturday 1 March 2014 - The Castrol Toyota Hilux squad got their 2014 campaign off to the best possible start with a Production Vehicle one/two triumph on the RFS 450, the opening round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Reigning South African champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy led the Castrol Toyota challenge, after a perfect weekend that also saw the pair win the 100 kilometre qualifying race to determine grid positions. Taylor and Murphy led home team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, who started the day in fifth place, with the two crews separated by around 10 minutes.
The result gave Toyota a resounding win in the battle of the factory teams. The final podium place went to veteran Manfred Schroder, standing in for injured regular driver Chris Visser, and Japie Badenhorst in a works Atlas Copco Ford Ranger.
“We had a couple of wrong slots early in the day, but recovered quickly,” said Taylor. “That was important but for the rest it was a clean run and the car ran like a dream.
“We could not have asked for a better start to the season, and we have plenty of momentum going into the next race.”
Both Atlas Copco Fords were late out of the pits after the compulsory 15 minute halt after the first lap, and were overtaken by Poulter/Howie. Local privateers Kobus van Tonder / Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Johan van Staden / Mike Lawrenson (Atlas Copco Nissan Navara) consolidated their hold on fourth and fifth.
Youngsters Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) completed the top six in their Class T debut. The top six were all out in Class T vehicles after a decision to split the premier SP Class into two categories.
Class T caters for vehicles of over four litres with solid rear axle or independent rear suspension with the two Castrol Toyota Hilux entries and both Atlas Copco Fords running to Dakar Rally specs. Class S is for cars up to four litres with solid rear axle suspensions.
Ruwacon Racing crew Peter Ruthven and Hansie Rheeder, in a Toyota Hilux, were the first of the Class S contingent in seventh place overall. Second were newcomers Piet Kotze and Salomon Victor in another Toyota Hilux, with Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling completing a good day for Ruwacon Racing with third place in a diesel powered Ford Ranger.
There was also a promising Class T debut for Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the ex factory Malalane Toyota Hilux who were seventh in class and eighth overall.
After being based outside Krugersdorp in recent seasons, the RFS 450 broke new ground in the Free State. The next event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar, the Toyota Dealer 450 on April 4 and 5, sees the series move to Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal.