Lydenburg: Toyota preview

MAXIMUM ATTACK ON TOYOTA DEALER 400 Maximum attack will be the Toyota battle cry at the Toyota Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga on October 10 and 11. There is nothing Toyota Motorsport manager...

MAXIMUM ATTACK ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Maximum attack will be the Toyota battle cry at the Toyota Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga on October 10 and 11.

There is nothing Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad would like more than a Toyota victory on their own event. But apart from the enticing prospect of a Toyota victory, Haddad and his troops have added incentive in terms of the prestige South African Manufacturer's Championship.

With two events left Toyota has ground out a 40 point lead over arch rival Nissan. A good showing on the Toyota Dealer 400 from the factory Castrol Toyota squad and Toyota privateers could put the issue beyond doubt.

"There is plenty to play for and it would be a bonus to win an event supported by the Toyota dealer network," said Haddad. "Our prospects of pulling off a win are pretty good, and with a little luck we'll pull off what has been an elusive second victory this season." Toyota hopes of that second overall and SP Class win will be pinned mainly on the works Castrol Toyota Hilux teams of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin and Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton. Cronje/Birkin won in the Eastern Cape earlier in the season while Taylor, who joined the team at the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, is now matching his team-mate for pace and they are a formidable combination.

"We have been in winning positions a couple of times since the Eastern Cape event, but things just haven't gone our way," said Cronje. "Hopefully we can turn that around this time out and come away with a victory that would be a late season boost."

Apart from the two factory crews Toyota has a powerful line-up in the SP Class. Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) produced a great result on the recent Limpopo 400 and will be full of confidence.

The de Bruyn's came home second and, along with Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, will be top five candidates. Mike Thomsett and Brian Haviland (Feltex Imperial Toyota Hilux) have been impressive and will also fancy their chances of a top five finish.

After a disappointing debut in the new RFS Toyota Hilux the experienced Chris du Plooy and Ewald van Rensburg will be looking for a better result this time out. Also aiming to bounce back after a frustrating Limpopo 400 will be George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.

Jaco Swanepoel and Keith Solomon, in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux, have also had their moments this season. Making it to the finish in Mpumalanga will be at the top of their agenda.

Toyota crews have slipped out of championship contention in Class D but the likes of reigning drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nico Els (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren are all capable of pulling off a win.

Weichelt's form has been a little erratic this year and a lone win has been interspersed with a sting of non finishes. After an iffy start to the season the Bezuidenhout's have settled down and three good results on the trot have edged them ahead of du Plooy and Jansen van Vuuren in the championship standings.

Toyota, via the experienced Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux), have a tight hold on the Class E championship. With a comfortable lead over impressive rookie Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit, the Visser/le Roux combination will be looking to wrap up the championship issue on the Toyota Dealer 400.

Visser and le Roux are far too experienced to go glory hunting. They will simply be looking for a good finish to put the finishing touches to a championship they have dominated all year.

After a maiden win on the Limpopo 400 the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux pair of Deon Venter and Ian Palmer will also come into the reckoning. They will be on a high and will be looking for a repeat performance.

Dan Swanepoel/James Moss (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) and experienced Rob Gurney and Paul Gonlag (Toyota Hilux) give Toyota plenty of depth in a category where they have had the upper hand all season.

"The incentives for the factory and privateer teams to do well are all there," said Haddad. "Now all they have to do is go out there and get the job done."

-credit: toyota

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Japie Badenhorst