Having already wrapped up the title for the 2015 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship on the previous round, Castrol Team Toyota’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie (Toyota Hilux) put the cherry on top this weekend, by winning the Atlas Copco 450, final round of the 2015 season. The newly crowned champions qualified in second place, less than two minutes behind former champions and team mates Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy, but went on to take the win by six minutes during the main race. This result gives Castrol Team Toyota a clean sweep for the year, having won every qualifying race as well as every round of the year.
“We can’t be anything but overjoyed,” said an ecstatic Glyn Hall, Team Principal of Castrol Team Toyota, after the race ended in Glenharvie, Gauteng, on Saturday October 31st. “The race Toyota Hilux has proven itself yet again this year, and our crews did exactly what was required of them.”
Both Castrol Team Toyota crews campaigned the latest version of the race Toyota Hilux, which will be taking part in the Dakar Rally early in January 2016. Taylor/Murphy won the qualifying event on Friday October 30th, while Poulter/Howie had to settle for second place after suffering a puncture on the qualifying loop.
During the main race, the two Toyota crews quickly built a comfortable buffer over the chasing pack, but Taylor/Murphy lost time after making contact with a concrete bollard at a road crossing.
“The road crossing was quite steep, up and over the tarmac road,” explained former champion Taylor after the race. “As we crossed the road, the race route veered sharply, and we hit a chunk of concrete on the other side.”
This damaged the steering rack of the Toyota Hilux resulting in a loss of power steering mid-way through the first loop of the day. But the technical crew repaired the Hilux during the mandatory mid-way stop at the Designated Service Park (DSP), and Taylor/Murphy was back on attack.
Poulter/Howie, in the mean time, had a clean run save for a puncture, and managed to capitalise on Taylor’s misfortune. They went on to power their race Toyota Hilux to an impressive fifth victory for the season.
Taylor/Murphy were back on the road in third place, having been overtaken by former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford) as a result of their steering problems. The Toyota crew chased hard, but had to settle for the final podium slot, holding off an impressive assault by Ford driver Gareth Woolridge behind them.
For Castrol Team Toyota, the 2015 season featured a win on every round, as well as winning every qualifying race of the season. Poulter/Howie won five of the six rounds, narrowly losing out on an outright win on the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race, after having won the first heat of the grueling race. Taylor/Murphy took the honours in Botswana, ensuring a whitewash for Castrol Team Toyota.
In Class S, for vehicles with engines up to 4,000 cc and solid rear axles, the battle for the championship raged until the final moments of the last round of the season. After five rounds, it was the Toyota crew of Heini Strumpher and Henri Hugo who lead the championship. With a buffer of only 6 points over their rivals, Romulo Branco and João Serôdio (Nissan), it was always going to be a tight race.
Things got off to a poor start for the Toyota crew, who suffered technical problems during the qualifying loop, and were forced to start the race from the back of the grid. Branco and Serôdio, in the mean time, powered to a class win, while Strumpher/Hugo managed to finish in fourth place. This handed the class championship to Branco/Serôdio by the narrowest of margins, relegating the Toyota crew to second overall despite their valiant charge on the Atlas Copco 450.
With the South African Cross-Country season now behind them, the members of Castrol Team Toyota will be putting all their effort behind the annual Dakar Rally, where Poulter/Howie will again be partnering with Giniel de Villiers and his long-standing navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz. That race gets under way on January 2nd, in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
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, Innovation Group, Imperial Toyota Group, Bosch, Donaldson, Edgecam, Ferodo, Smith Manufacturing, NGK, SKF, Reiger and Spanjaard.