|ABSA 2011: Atlas Copco 400 double for Castrol Toyota in Production Class.|
In historic battlefield country in the Biggarsberg the Castrol Toyota Hilux team won the skirmishes and the war on the Atlas Copco 400, round three of the South African Absa Off Road Championship.
Former champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie led home team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin to give the factory team a crushing one/two victory. Vos and Howie took control of matters on the second of four loops that made up the race and at the finish were around six minutes ahead of Birkin and Taylor.
The two Castrol Toyota crews fought an early cat and mouse game before a puncture hit Taylor/Birkin and handed to Vos and Howie an advantage they never relinquished. It gave Vos/Howie their first win of the season while Taylor/Birkin got a monkey off their backs by scoring their first finish of the season.
Taylor and Birkin won the Donaldson Prologue that determined start positions with Vos and Howie coming in behind reigning SA champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the works Team Ford Ranger. An engine overhaul for the Vos/Howie vehicle saw Toyota technicians burn the midnight oil, but the car never missed a beat.
"It was a tough and very technical route," said Vos. "You had to be on your toes for every second, but the race organisers and the landowners in this area did a tremendous job."
Toyota Dealer 400 winners Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson produced another workmanlike performance to take the final podium place in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. Fourth went to the father and son pairing of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) who were having only their second outing after a lengthy sabbatical.
The top five was completed by Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr who produced a tigerish display in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara. After a troubled prologue the pair were part of the mass start at the back of the field but, according to unofficial scoring, salvaged enough points to stay two points ahead of Whitehouse and Carlson at the top of the overall championship.
Vos’s win takes him into third place in the championship ahead of former SA champion Hannes Grobler. The veteran Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) were among the casualties along with Visser and Badenhorst who were forced to call it a day with power steering problems.
A broken suspension saw Toyota miss out on a possible top three clean sweep when Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) retired late in the race with a broken suspension. That let in Whitehouse/Carlson and Rundle/Mohr with Malcolm Kock/Johann Burger (Toyota Hilux) and Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (International Toyota Hilux) next up.
The top eight was completed by Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma who won Class D in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser first time out this season. A long way back in second were Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, who increased their championship lead after mechanical problems sidelined reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux.
The tough conditions saw a high rate of attrition in Class E with Diederik Hattingh and Kristo Bosman (Transcor Toyota Hilux) the only finishers. They now join Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens, who were among those who failed to see out the distance, at the top of the championship.
The next event on the calendar is the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana from June 24 to 26.
2011/05/22 | 21:23 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE