Sugarbelt 500: Round three summary

TOYOTA WINS MANUFACTURERS AWARD ON NISSAN SUGARBELT 400 Three cars in the first five in the Production Vehicle category, a class victory and winning the manufacturers award saw Toyota come away well pleased with their performance on the Nissan...

TOYOTA WINS MANUFACTURERS AWARD ON NISSAN SUGARBELT 400

Three cars in the first five in the Production Vehicle category, a class victory and winning the manufacturers award saw Toyota come away well pleased with their performance on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend.

Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux V6, continued their good form by finishing third overall and in the Super Production Class. Joining the Eastern Cape 500 winners in the top five were Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux and Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in another Castrol Toyota Hilux.

The class win went to Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, who scored their second win of the season in Class E. The combined efforts of the top SP Class finishers saw Toyota take the manufacturers award for the first time this season.

For the second race in a row Cronje/Birkin won the Friday prologue to determine start positions. Their race got off to a rocky start, however, when they picked up a puncture in the first 10 kilometres and then picked up a fuel pressure problem.

"The fuel pressure problem sorted itself out, but after that we were always playing catch up," said Cronje. "On the final loop we put a lot of pressure on Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the Ford but it was impossible to pass in the dust.

"We were happy to finish third and score valuable championship points."

Anthony Taylor, who has replaced Bevan Bertholdt in the Castrol Toyota works team, and Robin Houghton had an adventurous outing. The pair survived two low speed rolls but perseverance saw them finish ninth in the SP Class.

"I twice ran out of road and then talent," joked Taylor. "I think my ego suffered the most damage but I learned a huge amount on my first off road race in years.

"It was a very tricky and technical route and it was easy to make mistakes. At the end of it Robin and I were happy to have got the car home and pick up a couple of points."

Punctures and a power steering failure 80 kilometres from the finish hampered the de Bruyn father and son team. At the end of the day, however, a steady run saw them home fourth in class.

Visser and Badenhorst also had something of an adventurous race. They were stranded in a ditch on loop one when Taylor and Houghton stopped to help get them back on the road.

"After that we were very cautious," said Visser. "We managed to return the compliment when Anthony and Robin went off the road, but it was a tough and tricky race."

Perseverance also saw George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) pick up their first finish of the season. Not so lucky were Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) whose race ended when they destroyed the clutch trying to get out of a deep ditch. There was a high rate of attrition in Class D where only two cars finished. A dogged performance saw young Chris du Plooy and Henk van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) take a hard earned second.

Cliff Weichelt/Jimmy Goch (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) and Ramon Bezuidenhout/Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) were not as lucky. Mechanical problems forced both crews into retirement.

A typically steady drive took Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) to their second win of the season in Class E. They never got out of the car and gradually wore down the opposition.

A fine performance saw Deon Venter and Ian Palmer take third in class after a trying weekend. Palmer was forced to do the Friday prologue on his own after Venter was delayed through business commitments.

A gutsy performance saw Daniel Swanepoel and James Moss take fourth in Class in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux. The pair were out on the route for over nine hours but stuck to their guns to take hard earned points.

The major Class E casualties were local crew Rob Gurney and Paul Gonlag (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Eastern Cape 500 winner Dewald van Breda and Pierre Mans in a Toyota Hilux. Mechanical problems sidelined both crews early in the race.

"By and large we had a pretty good weekend," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. "There were one or two disappointments but as a dress rehearsal for the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race next month it was an encouraging outing."

-credit: absa

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Japie Badenhorst