Toyota Motorsports Sugarbelt 400 Prologue summary

TOUGH AFTERNOON FOR CASTROL TOYOTA CREWS The Nissan Sugarbelt 400 prologue today turned out to be a tough afternoon for Castrol Toyota factory teams. All three factory cars made it through the 40 kilometre route to decided start...

TOUGH AFTERNOON FOR CASTROL TOYOTA CREWS

The Nissan Sugarbelt 400 prologue today turned out to be a tough afternoon for Castrol Toyota factory teams.

All three factory cars made it through the 40 kilometre route to decided start positions for tomorrow's race proper, but it was tough going for the two Super Production Class entries and the Class E factory car. The two SP Toyota Hilux V6 entries, driven by Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton ran into niggly problems while the Class E pair of Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie ran into suspension problems.

For all that Cronje/Birkin posted the fifth fastest time overall and were third fastest in the Production Vehicle category behind the Nissan Navara SP entries of Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford and Hannes Grobler/Francois Jordaan. Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux running in the SP Class, ran into steering problems and were around three minutes off the pace and were down in sixth place in the SP category.

"We had a clean run mechanically, but I am not happy," said Cronje who missed the opening event of the season after a training run accident. "We haven't had too much seat time in the vehicles, and I think I also might be a little short on confidence.

"Hopefully it will all fall into place in the race. We need a good result to boost confidence and kick start our season."

Bertholdt and Houghton battled through the prologue with a vehicle that wouldn't turn right. It is believed a piece of metal or silicon damaged the power steering system.

"I'm exhausted and Robin had to help turn the wheel when we needed to go right," said Bertholdt. "It hasn't been the best start to the weekend, but hopefully we will be able to fight back tomorrow."

Martin and Fourie, who won Class E on the opening event of the season, suffered suspension failure and were relegated to fifth fastest in Class E in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. A control arm broke and the pair limped home 10 minutes behind class leaders Manfred Schroeder and Rob Gurney in a factory Ford Racing Ranger.

"It was very disappointing," said Martin. "We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are going to come up with a decent result. All we can do is go out and give it our best shot."

Second in Class E were brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat, having their first outing in a Bosal Toyota Hilux. The Moffat's are the reigning Class F champions, and came in ahead of Fabio Tafani/Mike Baron and George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.

There was better news for Toyota in Class D where Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, set the fastest time ahead of Nissan pair Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox and reigning Class E champions Chris Visser and Japie Pretorius in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux. Former Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn set the fourth fastest time but were only one second quicker than Jurie and Arnold du Plessis in another BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

"It has been one of those up and down days," said Toyota Motorsport manager Wammy Haddad. "Hopefully it will all come together for us tomorrow, but it is going to be a tough race."

-toyota.za-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos