TOYOTA DEALER 400 TAKES ITS TOLL The Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga over the weekend, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, turned out to be something of a disappointment for Toyota. A lone class win and three top 10...
TOYOTA DEALER 400 TAKES ITS TOLL
The Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga over the weekend, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, turned out to be something of a disappointment for Toyota.
A lone class win and three top 10 finishes were all Toyota had to show after an eventful weekend with a tough course and often inclement weather producing one of the toughest races of the year. The Friday prologue to determine start positions was cancelled because of fast rising water at a river crossing, with intermittent rain and hail storms during the race adding to a tough day at the office for crews.
Only a third of the starters in both the Production and Special Vehicle categories were classified as finishers. But the organisers, the South African Motorsport Club (SAM) earned high praise from competitors for the overall organisation, the road book and route marking.
Castrol Team Barberspan crew Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux produced Toyota's only class win when they won Class E and were a creditable seventh overall. Visser and le Roux, along with Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D) who were eighth overall and second in Class D, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux), who were 10th overall and seventh in the Super Production Class, were Toyota's finishers.
Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, both in Castrol Toyota Hilux entries, were early casualties. Cronje/Birkin went out with a broken rear axle, with Visser/Badenhorst retiring when a side shaft broke.
They were later to be followed by Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton in a third Castrol Toyota Hilux. They were time barred after an off road excursion on the second of the three loops that made up the route.
The Weichelt's kept alive their Class D championship hopes with their second place in Class D, while there was heartache for Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock in a Toyota Hilux. Bezuidenhout and Lock, after impressive performances in their rookie year, failed by seconds to beat the time bar.
Visser and le Roux were the only finishers in Class E and revived their title hopes, while George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) lost ground in the title chase as did Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. Visser and le Roux had a clean run and "never had to get out the car."
Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) also failed to see out the distance. Crews were either hit by mechanical woes, or the tough route and the elements led to time bars.
"It wasn't the best weekend we have had, but we'll pick ourselves up and come out fighting at the Ford Carnival City 400," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. "We will be aiming, as we did last year, to end the season on a high note."
Last year Bertholdt and Houghton won the Ford Carnival City 400, and Toyota will be hoping for more of the same this year.