Eastern Cape: Toyota preview

CONFIDENT TOYOTA TEAMS HEAD FOR EASTERN CAPE 400 After a solid start to the season the factory and privateer Toyota teams will head for the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship on April 17 and 18, in a confident frame of...

CONFIDENT TOYOTA TEAMS HEAD FOR EASTERN CAPE 400

After a solid start to the season the factory and privateer Toyota teams will head for the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship on April 17 and 18, in a confident frame of mind.

The opening round of the championship, the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape, produced two class wins for Toyota and encouraging results in the premier Class SP category. The factory Castrol Toyota Hilux team won the corresponding event last year, and will have high hopes of a repeat performance.

With Mark Cronje, who won last year with Chris Birkin, taking a sabbatical from off road action the works challenge will be in the hands of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton and newcomer Hein Lategan who teams up with Birkin. Taylor joined the Castrol Toyota team after last year's event and both drivers will be having the first taste of Eastern Cape conditions.

Lategan, however, has rallied in the region and will know all about the off camber corners and other pitfalls in the Longmore Forest sections. And while Lategan and Birkin had a tough time of it on the Adenco 400 both factory crews finished in the points.

"The main objective for both Hein and I will be to get the vehicles to the finish in one piece," said Taylor. "That way you are always in with a chance of a good result. "It will be my first off road outing in the Eastern Cape so I am looking forward to it and hopefully we can bank a decent haul of points."

There will be strong support for the factory crews and a typically workmanlike driver saw Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst to an impressive third place overall on the Adenco 400. They won't be short of confidence and, after a troubled Western Cape outing, the father and son pairing of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) will be looking to break into the top five.

Back injuries will keep Chris du Plooy and Ewald van Rensburg (RFS Toyota Hilux) out of action indefinitely, but the Western Cape outing produced an encouraging SP Class debut for Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren in a second RFS Toyota Hilux. They will be looking to consolidate on that performance.

Back in action after competing in the Absa Epic cycle event Jaco Swanepoel will again team up with Keith Solomon in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux. They will be looking for a finish in the points along with George and Sharon Bezuidenhout (AIM Toyota Hilux) who would like to put a disappointing first race of the season behind them.

The Toyota challenge could be further boosted by the debut of the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux in the hands of Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen. Bertholdt and Vermeulen are among a number of high profile defections from the Special Vehicle category.

Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) gave Toyota one of their two class wins in the Western Cape and will be looking for more of the same in Class D. With plenty of experience behind them the Weichelt's look to be the team to beat.

Last season's Rookies of the Year, Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D, ground out a solid result on the Adenco 400 in what was their first Class D outing. They will be a threat along with Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Botes Transport Toyota Hilux) who are back in the Class D fold after a brief foray into the Special Vehicle world.

Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, gave Toyota their second class win in the Western Cape when they took Class E in a race where all the top runners ran into some kind of trouble. For Venter and Palmer it was their second national win and they will be hungry for more success.

Reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) also ground out a slid result on the Adenco 400. They came home third after prologue problems and one can expect another workmanlike performance from the veteran crew.

Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) and newcomers Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and Heinie Strumpher (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) were all Adenco 400 casualties, and their objective this time around will be to make it to the finish.

"It looks as though we are in for another tough weekend," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. "That is going to be the trend throughout the year, but I think we are up for the challenge.

"We were happy with the way things panned out at the opening race and the prospects are good for some impressive results this time around."

-credit: toyota sa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Japie Badenhorst