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ABSA 2009: Toyota take class wins and manufaturers award.

Toyota scored two more class wins in the Production Vehicle category and took the Manufacturers Award on the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Jeffreys Bay over the weekend. The father and son team of Cliff and Louis Weichelt and Deon Venter and Ian Palmer both scored their second class wins of the season. The Weichelt’s (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) won Class D and Venter/Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) took Class E in repeat results of the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape.

It was, however, another tough weekend for the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux team. For Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton problems started when Taylor was bumped off a flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth.

A steering problem saw the pair miss their start time for the Friday prologue, and the resultant 15 minute penalty dropped them to the back of the field. Their race did not last long when the fan motor burned out and the Toyota Hilux started overheating.

"It happened just before we went into the forest section for the first time," said Taylor. "We decided not to risk serious damage to the engine and reluctantly called it a day. It was one of those weekends you want to forget as quickly as possible."

For Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, in the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux, it was a rather adventurous weekend. Lategan was having only his second off road outing and the pair tipped the Toyota Hilux on its side in a test run prior to the prologue. They hit back with a good prologue and a good first loop in the race proper. They were looking at a possible top three finish when they went off the road and landed in a shallow canal.

They were inching their way out of the canal when the vehicle again tipped on its side. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) helped get them back on the road, but the incident dropped Lategan/Birkin to eighth overall and seventh in the SP Class.

There was a great result for former Special Vehicle stars Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen who came home fourth in their debut in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. A brake problem slowed them on the first of the two loops that made up the tough route, but were delighted with their result.

Visser and Badenhorst were also delighted with their second top five finish in a row. They also spent much of their time helping fellow competitors back onto the road.

There was also an encouraging result for the husband and wife team of George and Sharon Barkhuizen (AIM Toyota Hilux) who ground out a gutsy sixth place overall. The combined performances of Bertholdt/Vermeulen, Visser/Badenhorst and the Bezuidenhout’s were enough to give Toyota the Manufacturers Award.

Apart from Taylor and Houghton other SP Class casualties were Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren in the RFS Toyota Hilux. The de Bruyn’s were looking at a top three result when they blew a gearbox while du Plooy, after a recent bout of tick bite fever, felt too ill to continue after the first loop.

In Class D the Weichelt’s, after a troubled prologue when a boost pipe broke, gradually wore down the opposition. In a close battle they only had 19 seconds in hand over Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D. Toyota completed domination of Class D when Heinie Strumpher and Jan Hendrik van der Linde took third place in the Micaren Toyota Hilux. It was only their second outing in a brief off road career.

Venter and Palmer dominated Class E for the second event in a row. They completed a great weekend by also finishing seventh overall in the 4x4 Megaworld entry. It was a good weekend for the Megaworld team with Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus second in Class E in another Toyota Hilux. The tough conditions saw to it that there were only three classified finishers in Class E, with reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) among the casualties.

"It was another satisfactory weekend for us," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. "There are not going to be any easy events in this year’s championship, and hard work will be required to pick up good results."

2009/04/21 | 12:54 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Sharon Garson

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