Castrol Team Toyota’s Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy will be looking to improve on the fifth and 10th places they achieved in the opening round of the Donaldson SA Cross Country Championship when they line up their Toyota Hilux 4x4s at the start of the Nkomazi 400 in Malelane, Mpumalanga, on Saturday (April 13).
While Taylor and new co-driver Murphy produced one of the drives of the day to finish fifth in the season-opening RFS Magalies 400 in North West Province after starting in 16th place, 2012 champions Vos and Howie could only manage a disappointed 10th after experiencing drive shaft problems while lying third.
“It wasn’t the start to the season we were hoping for,” admitted team principal Glyn Hall. “Anthony and Dennis were very unlucky to bog down in soft sand at a road crossing when they were comfortably leading the prologue. They did well to finish fifth in the race after starting well back in the field. Duncan and Rob were lying third and in a good position to challenge for the win when they had their problems. We know why the drive shaft failed and we don’t expect this problem again. It’s always good to be able to identify and solve a problem. It’s a big positive for everyone in the workshop and we build on this and move forward.
“Dennis has settled in quickly and did a great job first time out with the team. We have two strong crews and they’re going to both be strong contenders for this year’s title.”
Both crews have benefitted from testing in the long, five-week break between races and are confident they can get back to the winning ways that saw them score four victories and nine top-three finishes between them last year on their way to a championship 1-2.
“Apart from a puncture, we had a trouble-free run last time out,” said Taylor. “The Hilux ran like clockwork and we showed last year that it’s the vehicle to beat. I’m confident we’ll get back on top of the podium before long.”
Vos and Howie, who won three races last year on their way to Vos’s fifth and Howie’s first championship, are equally upbeat. “We still managed to score some valuable championship points despite our problem and now we have to concentrate on a really good result this weekend to set us up for the rest of the season,” said Vos. “The team back at the workshop has put in the hard work preparing the bakkies; now it’s up to us to deliver the goods.”
The Nkomazi 400 is a new event on the cross country calendar and is based in the Lowveld town of Malelane south of the Kruger Park. Friday’s prologue starts at 12:30 and Saturday’s race at 08:30 with a route made up of two loops of 170 kilometres each.
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