The fight for overall honours in the Donaldson Cross Country Car Racing Championship hots up in the penultimate round, the Ford Dealer 400 in Thaba Nchu in the Free State on Friday and Saturday with Castrol Toyota the team to beat.
After winning the last four rounds in succession, including the blue riband double points Toyota Desert Race in Botswana and underlining the team’s superiority with back-to-back 1-2 finishes in the most recent Sun City 400 and Vryburg 400, championship leaders Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy and team-mates and defending champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie find themselves very much in the spotlight in their class SP Toyota Hilux pickups.
Taylor and Murphy (135,5 points), who only teamed up this season, have dominated the competition as they seek their maiden championship and enjoy a 20-point lead over former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (115,5 points). If each dropped their worst score to date, which is required at the end of the season, the Toyota Motorsport pair’s advantage would grow to 24 points.
Vos, a five-time champion, and Howie are currently third with 92 points and, with a maximum of 50 points on offer in the final two rounds, are the only other crew in championship contention. However, their role in the remaining rounds will be to take as many points away from Visser and Badenhorst and help their team-mates win the title.
“We’ve had a good run so far this year,” admitted Toyota Motorsport’s Glyn Hall, who is also team principal. “But there is much work to do before we can relax and enjoy another championship success. The competition is tough and although they might only have won one round, Chris and Japie have been very consistent and are always a danger.
“We’ll continue to take it one event at a time, as we always do, and we have prepared carefully for the Thaba Nchu round. We haven’t had to make too many improvements to the Toyota Hilux. It’s about as good as we can make it without building a brand new car and we’re confident we can maintain our good run through to the end of the season.”
Toyota Motorsport has received special permission from the Cross Country Car Racing Commission of Motorsport South Africa to run an updated version of the 2013 Imperial Toyota Dakar Rally Hilux ahead of the official competing field on both days of the race. It will be crewed by 2009 Dakar Rally winners Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, who finished a remarkable second overall in South America in January, and will run in the colours of the official Toyota Imperial South Africa team.
Because it features independent rear suspension it does not meet the national championship regulations and will therefore not be included in the official results.
“We negotiated to use the Thaba Nchu event to test some new suspension and other components as well as a different engine management system ahead of the 2014 Dakar in January,” said Hall. “The fact that we’ve been allowed to do this is testament to the tremendous support we have received from the cross country racing community since our Dakar adventure started at the end of 2011.
“The two new Hilux pickups we are building for the 2014 Dakar are well on schedule, but won’t be ready in time for us to evaluate under real event conditions. The Thaba Nchu route, which covers some 400 kilometres over the two days, includes high-speed open sections and some technical challenges among koppies and rocky sections. It will be a really good test of the components we need to evaluate and will also give Giniel a chance to provide us with valuable feedback.”
Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Toyota Financial Services, Imperial Toyota Group, Innovation Group, Bosch, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, NGK, SKF and Spanjaard.