A maiden victory for brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux secured the top step of the podium for Toyota; while Castrol Team Toyota's Leeroy Poulter drove a stunning race from 17th position all the way to third overall. The Force Fuel 450 at Sun City turned into a tough grind for Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, but the result was worth it.
"We are very pleased with our results on the Force Fuel 450," says Team Principal Glyn Hall. "Though it is unfortunate that Anthony and Dennis didn't finish the race."
Things started well for defending champion Anthony Taylor and navigator Denis Murphy. During the 100 km-long prologue, run on Friday August 8th, Taylor/Murphy went fastest in the production vehicle category. But the Horn brothers were snapping at their heels, just four seconds back. For Poulter it was a tough prologue, as this is his first full season in the Donaldson Cross Country Champhionship, and he is still racing as an unseeded driver - which meant a poor starting position for the prologue, resulting in a time that was just over 6 minutes slower than that posted by Taylor/Murphy in the leading Castrol Team Toyota Hilux.
When the flag dropped for the start of the race, at 8am on Saturday morning, Taylor/Murphy made their intentions clear as they muscled their way past one of the Special Vehicles ahead of them, losing a windscreen in the process. But then disaster struck: The pair suffered a puncture in the rough terrain, and was forced to stop to change the wheel. Unfortunately the change didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked, and the crew lost a significant amount of time before continuing at race pace.
This opened the door for the Horn brothers, who simply kept it neat and tidy from start to finish, earning their maiden victory in style. For Taylor/Murphy the day got worse when their Castrol Team Toyota Hilux suffered a transmission problem, forcing them into retirement. This placed the Horns on the top step of the podium for the first time, with the Ford of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in second place.
For teammate Leeroy Poulter, it was a long, tough day in the dust. Starting in seventeenth position on Saturday, he clearly had a lot to do when the race got under way. But even he and navigator Rob Howie didn't dream of a podium finish when they started.
"It was really difficult in the dust, but we managed to pass quite a lot of cars early on," says Poulter. "By the time we were nearing the end of the second loop, we were up to fourth - and then passed Johan van Staden in the Nissan for third. We couldn't believe it!"
Having started the race more than six minutes behind Berthold and Rousseau, Poulter and Howie closed to within 35 seconds at the end of the race. Poulter also commented that the recent changes to the suspension setup has resulted in a faster, more stable race car – especially in rough terrain.
“Leeroy and Rob showed unbelievable pace today,” said Hall after the event. “Once can only speculate what the result might have been, had they started higher up the order.”
As it was, this was Poulter's fourth podium in his maiden Cross Country season (including the two heats of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race), placing him third in the championship after five rounds. Their victory on the Force Fuel 450 secured the Horn Brothers 25 points, and moved them into second place in the season standings, just three points shy of Taylor, who still leads despite his DNF at Sun City.
In Class S, for production vehicles with engines up to four liters, as well as solid rear axles, the result was similar to Class T. Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux took class honours, with Luke Botha and André Vermeulen, in the Force Fuel Toyota Hilux coming home in third place. The two Toyotas were split by the BMW X3 of Willem Vos and Werner Weiss.
Thanks to their wins in both classes, as well as various other strong finishes, the manufacturer's award on the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City went to Toyota. The next round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship is Round 6, and takes place at Vryburg on 12 and 13 September, 2014.
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, 4x4 Mega World, FreeM, NGK, Robor, SKF and Spanjaard.