TOPSY TURVY WEEKEND FOR TOYOTA TEAMS ON NISSAN HLUHLUWE 400 The Nissan Hluhluwe 400 in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, provided for a topsy turvy race for Toyota factory and privateer teams competing...
TOPSY TURVY WEEKEND FOR TOYOTA TEAMS ON NISSAN HLUHLUWE 400
The Nissan Hluhluwe 400 in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, provided for a topsy turvy race for Toyota factory and privateer teams competing in the Production vehicle category.
Toyota, however, emerged from what was a frustrating outing with two class wins. Unheralded Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock, in a Toyota Hilux, won Class D with the husband and wife team of George and Sharon Bezuidenhout taking Class E.
It was a disappointing weekend for the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux crews competing in the Super Production Class. Both Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton failed to see out the distance.
"It was frustrating," said Cronje. "Our new vehicle wasn't ready in time for the prologue, and we were part of the mass start.
"We were soon in trouble when the steering rack broke, and it isn't a race I will remember too fondly."
It was also a race Bertholdt and Houghton will want to forget. A fine performance in the prologue saw them start second, and they grabbed the lead from Hannes Grobler/Jordaan on the first of three loops. Things were looking rosy for the Toyota Pair when the car started to overheat.
"The car was starting to overheat, so we decided to head for the service point to get the radiator grids cleaned," said Bertholdt. "As we got to the service area a ball joint broke and that effectively cost us the race."
The pair managed to rejoin the fray after a lengthy pit stop. Then a clutch problem put an end to an unhappy race.
Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, were also Class SP casualties. The de Bruyn's, after a gutsy performance went out through mechanical failure in their first SP outing, while Visser and Badenhorst, in their final outing in the Class D spec Toyota Hilux, were accident victims.
"We got stuck behind one of the Ruwacon cars," said Visser. "When they got into trouble and went sideways on the road we T-boned them and that was that."
The surprise packages of the race were Class D winners Bezuidenhout and Lock. Having their first outing in the ex de Bruyn vehicle, they hardly put a foot wrong and finished sixth overall and first in class.
Another pair of Toyota Hilux newcomers, Francois Conradie and Andrew van der Westhuizen, also came up with a creditable result. They came in fifth in class after a promising debut.
Class D contenders Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the new Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D, missed the event and ended up as spectators. No solution could be found to an electrical problem that cost them wads of time on the opening event.
"The problem is a mystery, but we decided to rather sit this one out," said Weichelt. "It was frustrating being spectators, but we wanted to support the other teams and hopefully the electrical hassle will be sorted out in time for the next event."
The Barkhuizen husband and wife team dominated Class E to score their second career win. They had plenty of time in hand over Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, who lost time with a broken sideshaft.
"The route was great and we had a clean run," said Barkhuizen. "From our point of view it was a great race and we are delighted with the result."
Not so lucky were Mark and Stuart Moffatt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, Hein Moolman and Ian Palmer in the Roost Racing Toyota Hilux and Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux in another Toyota Hilux. All three crews ran into problems of one kind or another and were forced into retirement.