TOYOTA TEAMS CONFIDENT AFTER FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 PROLOGUE There was an air of confidence in the Toyota camp after today's prologue for the Ford Carnival City 400. With Toyota trailing Nissan by 33 points in the prestige South ...
TOYOTA TEAMS CONFIDENT AFTER FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 PROLOGUE
There was an air of confidence in the Toyota camp after today's prologue for the Ford Carnival City 400.
With Toyota trailing Nissan by 33 points in the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship, there are high stakes riding on the final event of the season of the Absa Off Road Championship. The 52 kilometre prologue drew some heavy criticism from crews for poor route marking, but Castrol Toyota Hilux factory crews and privateers all reported clear runs with few problems.
The most pleasing aspect of the day for Toyota Motorsport manager Wammy Haddad was the performance of the new Castrol Toyota Hilux running in the Super Production class. The vehicle is making its debut with the experienced Cliff Barker and Chris Birkin doing the driving and co-driving, with the Toyota Hilux performing faultlessly.
Barker and Birkin were third fastest in the Production Vehicle category behind the Proudly Nissan Hardbody of Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Steege, and team-mates Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton. Barker and Birkin were around five minutes slower than Vos and ter Steege, but were not looking to set the world on fire.
"We are treating this race as an extended test session," said Barker. "We had a few problems with the route and were lucky not to get lost, but the vehicle was great.
"There won't bee too many heroics from us tomorrow, but if all goes well we should come up with a good result."
Although the two Castrol Toyota Hilux crews running in Class D -- Cronje/Houghton and Paolo Pizza-Musso/Ockie Fourie -- are out of the championship picture, they have key roles to play in the fight against Nissan in the manufacturers series. Both crews reported clean runs, and were full of confidence.
"The route marking and the route schedule weren't all that hot, but we had a clean run," said Houghton. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day, but we are capable of a really good result."
Houghton's sentiments were mirrored by Piazza-Musso. The former SA rally champion and Fourie haven't had much luck this season, but are hoping to end the year on a high note.
"The car was fine so we have plenty of reason to look forward to a good result," said Piazza-Musso. "I think everyone in the Toyota team is conscious of the fact that we need to produce good results, and we will all be trying hard."
Class E championship leaders Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, are another crew needing a good result -- both in terms of their own championship aspirations and as part of the Toyota effort to overhaul Nissan. Visser and Badenhorst have a narrow Class D lead over Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, and the battle between the crews will be an interesting one.
"The car went well and that is all that matters," said Visser. "With so much at stake from championship points of view, it is going to be an interesting race."
Toyota Motorsport manager Wammy Haddad is a man of few words, and pronounced himself "reasonably happy so far" with proceedings. Haddad, however, was obviously pleased with the way the prologue went.
"I had a chat with the factory crews before the prologue and told them I didn't want too many heroics," he said. "They all did well and the performance of the SP vehicle was more than encouraging.
"But it is tomorrow that counts."