Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy (Castrol Team Toyota Hilux) were the provisional overall and class SP winners in the Production Vehicle category of the three-day 32nd Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, which ended in the village of Kumakwane on the outskirts of Gaborone this afternoon (Sunday, June 23).
It was Toyota’s second successive victory in the longest and toughest motor race in southern Africa and Castrol Team Toyota’s second win in a row in the Donaldson South African Cross Country Championship. The result was also a personal triumph for Taylor, who came within 17 kilometres of winning the event in 2011, only to be denied by a broken drive shaft while enjoying a comfortable lead.
Second overall and in class SP were Toyota privateers Hugo de Bruyn and Henri Hugo in another Hilux, who finished 8 min 29 sec behind Taylor and Murphy. Third were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger), a further 1 min 4 sec in arrears.
Reigning champions and winners of last year’s Desert Race, Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, looked headed for third place and a place on the podium when they were forced to stop and change a flat wheel just 30 kilometres from the finish. This allowed Visser and Badenhorst to overtake them and they eventually crossed the finish line in Kumakwane in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd in fourth place, 1 min 25 sec behind Visser and Badenhorst.
Taylor and Murphy’s popular and hard-earned win, achieved in hot, dry and extremely dusty conditions, lifted the Castrol Toyota pair into joint first place in the championship with Visser and Badenhorst with 85,5 points. Vos and Howie are now third with 54 points.
Privateers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman finished 12th overall and were the winners and only survivors of class D.
The race took its toll of the combined field of Production and Special Vehicles, competing together but in separate championships, with just 13 production vehicles and five special vehicles from an initial start list on Saturday of 54 cars.
Toyota won the manufacturers’ award for the event and enjoys a comfortable lead in the overall manufacturers’ championship.
Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, more accustomed to competing in the SA Rally Championship in a Castrol Team Toyota Yaris, came off the high of winning Friday’s 62-kilometre leg of the race in their first off road racing appearance together and experienced the low of being forced out of the race with electrical problems on their Castrol Toyota Hilux in Saturday’s 480-kilometre leg.
After leading the 54-car field from the start in Kumakwane on Saturday, they impressively built up a lead of more than two and a half minutes over De Bruyn and Hugo before alternator problems ended their race.
Team principal Glyn Hall commented: “Anthony and Dennis did a great job in the roughest Toyota Desert Race in recent history. Much of the route was new this year and the event lived up to its reputation for being the most extreme off road challenge on the calendar. Anthony came so close to winning this event in 2011 and the whole team is delighted it came right for him this year.
“Duncan and Rob were unfortunate to have to start first and open the road for the rest of the field in Friday’s qualifying race,” said Hall. “.’This meant they started Saturday’s race further back in the field than they would have liked. Had it not been for the fact that there were communications problems that prevented him from being alerted to the fact that Visser was catching him, he would not have settled for what he thought was a safe third place.”
Hall paid special tribute to the Imperial Toyota Group and Castrol who, together with Toyota, made it possible to enter a third Hilux for Poulter and Coetzee. “This undoubtedly gave this year’s race some extra Toyota spice. A big thank-you also to our technical team for a great job in preparing the three cars and looking after them throughout the three days of the race. All three ran extremely well and we were on for the perfect result as planned.”
The next round of the championship is the Sun City 400 in North West Province on July 26 and 27.