SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR FOR TOYOTA ON TOYOTA KALAHARI BOTSWANA 1000 DESERT RACE Gaborone -- There was heartbreak for Toyota at the finish of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, here ...
SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR FOR TOYOTA ON TOYOTA KALAHARI BOTSWANA 1000 DESERT RACE
Gaborone -- There was heartbreak for Toyota at the finish of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, here today.
In a case of so near and yet so far, Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin looked to have victory in the bag. Cronje and Birkin were within 65 kilometres of giving Toyota their first win in eight years on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race when disaster struck.
An encounter with a stray donkey led to a set of circumstances that saw Cronje and Birkin drop out of contention. It handed victory to Nissan Navara pair Duncan Vos and Richard Leeke. Second were Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in a Century Property Development Nissan Navara, with Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst salvaging Toyota pride with a podium finish in their first outing in a Castrol Toyota Hilux in the SP Class.
Overnight leaders Jaap and Hugo de Bruyn, in the Micaren Excel Dealer Team Toyota Hilux were early casualties with a broken propshaft. Last year's winners, Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan (Nissan Navara), also went out early on day two and that put Cronje and Birkin nearly two minutes ahead of Vos and Leeke.
"We were going along nicely when a donkey ran in front of us," said Cronje. "I swerved but just nicked the animal.
"I turned to see if it was okay, and we hit a stump. The impact broke the propshaft and cut the fuel and brake lines."
When Castrol Toyota team-mates Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton broke an axle at the same place, the two crews cannabalised the second Toyota. Cronje and Birkin then limped home in seventh place to score valuable championship points.
"We are disappointed and frustrated," said Cronje. "We had the win in our grasp."
There was also disappointment for Class D overnight leaders Cliff and Louis Weichelt who fell by the wayside in the Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D. Two young Toyota Hilux crews stepped into the breach.
Malcolm Kok and Wayne Brink were second in class with Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock third. Kok is the son of former Desert Race winner Andre, and Brink's father in law, Apie Reyneke, won the event six times.
After a race that promised so much Toyota ended with a lone class win. That came via George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux who took their second win of the season with a solid performance over the entire weekend.
The Barkhuizen's were given good support by Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) who were third in class. Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, were fourth.
-credit: TOYOTA SOUTH AFRICA.