Sun City: Toyota preview

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR TOYOTA AT SUN CITY 400 The Castrol Toyota factory team will go to the Sun City 400 on July 25 and 26, round five of the Absa Off Road championship, with high expectations in the Production Vehicle category. The two works...

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR TOYOTA AT SUN CITY 400

The Castrol Toyota factory team will go to the Sun City 400 on July 25 and 26, round five of the Absa Off Road championship, with high expectations in the Production Vehicle category.

The two works Castrol Toyota Hilux V6 entries driven by Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton, campaigning in the premier SP Class, have finished in the points on two events in a row. A second from Cronje/Birkin and fifth for Taylor/Houghton on the recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1 000 Desert Race has provided a boost for what promises to be a tough race in the Pilanesberg.

"The Sun City 400 is never an easy race," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. ""It is tough on the crews and the vehicles but recent results have lifted the confidence of the entire team.

"We also have a slight lead in the manufacturer's championship so there is plenty of incentive for the factory crews and privateers to do well."

The introduction of Taylor into the Castrol Toyota team has brought a new quality to the squad. Although better known for his track exploits, Taylor is hugely experienced and has quickly made himself at home.

More important, however, Taylor has had a stabilising effect. Cronje and Birkin are arguably the quickest crew around in the SP Class, but with Taylor and Houghton now starting to also look threatening there is a new confidence in the team.

"I had a bit of an iffy start on the Sugarbelt 400, but things are falling into place," said Taylor. "I am enjoying the challenge and having someone as experienced as Robin in the vehicle has been a huge help.

"I am looking forward to Sun City and hopefully we can come up with another good result."

As far as Cronje/Birkin are concerned they will be right up with the pre-race favourites.

"The win on the Eastern Cape 500 and good results for both teams in Botswana has left no doubt we are ultra competitive," said Cronje. "Now we have to keep it all together and put pressure on the opposition.

"Sun City is always a difficult proposition but it about time we came up with another win."

One again there will be solid back-up for the factory teams from Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Both crews will fancy the conditions and are deceptively quick.

The husband and wife team of George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) are starting to settle down after moving from Class E into the SP Class. Mike Tomsett/Brian Haviland, in the new Feltex Imperial Toyota Hilux had an encouraging start to the Toyota Desert Race and add another bow to the Toyota fiddle.

The Toyota contingent in Class D will be hoping for a return to top form. Reigning drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nico Els (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) and Ramon/Maret Bezuidenhout (Toyota Hilux) have not had a happy season and will be looking for a turnaround in fortunes.

Currently carrying the flag in Class D are young Chris du Plooy and Henk van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) who are third in the standings. The pair have performed consistently and another good finish will be top of their agenda.

The experienced Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) have taken charge of Class E and have a comfortable points cushion. They will also fancy the Sun City 400 conditions although there is plenty of tough opposition.

Newcomer Dewald van Breda who has had three different co-drivers so far in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux has made an encouraging start to his national career. Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing Botswana race, and rookies Dan Swanepoel and James Moss (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) are in the same boat.

-credit: mweb.co.za

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