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TEAM CASTROL TOYOTA WELL PREPARED FOR NISSAN DEALER 400 Team Castrol Toyota is confident of scoring valuable points in its quest to win the Absa Off Road Production Vehicle Championship when the four-car team lines up for the Nissan Dealer...

TEAM CASTROL TOYOTA WELL PREPARED FOR NISSAN DEALER 400

Team Castrol Toyota is confident of scoring valuable points in its quest to win the Absa Off Road Production Vehicle Championship when the four-car team lines up for the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape on April 22 and 23.

Former Class E champions and runners-up by one point in last year's Class D championship Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin were well placed on the season opening Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu-Natal until an encounter with a tree stump put their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i out of the running.

"I was disappointed with the way things turned out in KwaZulu-Natal especially as I knew my co-driver Chris Birkin and I had the measure of the competition," said Mark Cronje. "The Western Cape event is our favourite and we hope to finish as high up as possible, which will not be easy as there is the Ford and our teammates Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie and Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton with which to contend."

Class D newcomers Gavin Cronje and five times SA Off Road Co-drivers Champion Robin Houghton started 65th on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and finished eighth overall in the Production Vehicle category and fourth in Class D despite having to nurse their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i home with sheared differential mounting bolts.

"This will be my first visit to the Western Cape and I am really looking forward to the event, which I have been told is fast and not as technical as other events in the championship," said Gavin Cronje. "Our strategy will be to score maximum points and we will be keeping a watchful eye on the Class D competition as well as our future Class SP rivals like Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan and Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford."

Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering won Class D on last year's Nissan Dealer 400 and, along with new co-driver Ockie Fourie, he intends making up for their disappointing non-finish in KwaZulu-Natal. An engine mounting on the Class D Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i broke and the engine shifted, which resulted in two spark plug leads chafing through.

"The thick sand in the Darling area makes it very challenging for us because the 4-cylinder Hilux doesn't have the same power as its V6 powered rivals in Class D," said Paolo Piazza-Musso. "Maintaining a good flow and picking the right lines in the sand will be critical to our success."

Durban based businessmen Zane Pearce and Peter Chadwick powered their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i to a fine seventh overall in the Production Vehicle category and second in Class E on the season-opening event.

"I switched from diesel power to petrol power for the 2005 season and it took me a while to adjust to the different performance characteristics," said Zane Pearce. "Having an experienced rally navigator like Peter, who is having his first taste of off road racing and finding the going rather tough, has made a huge difference and boosted my confidence."

Toyota Motorsport technicians having been burning the midnight oil preparing the Castrol Toyota RunX rally cars as well as the Castrol Toyota Hilux off road vehicles and are confident that the minor problems that beset the team on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 have been overcome.

"My dedicated team has had to cope with a tremendous workload of late and then there is also the additional pressure of having to build two of the new Class SP vehicles in time for the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in June," said Toyota Motorsport manager, Wammy Haddad. "There is a possibility that the Nissan Dealer 400 will be a wet event, which will compact the thick sand and perfectly suit the smaller capacity engined Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i."

The Nissan Dealer 400 starts with a 42km Prologue at 13h00 on Friday, April 22 and the main event, which consists of three laps of a 115km course starts at 08h00 on Saturday, April 23.

-toyota.za-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Gavin Cronje