|ABSA 2011: Toyota dominates the 435 km 4x4 Mega World Rally South Africa.|
Toyota dominated the 4x4 Mega World 400, sixth round of the Absa Off Road Car Championship, which ended at Carnival City near Brakpan on Saturday afternoon.
In a tough two-day event run in hot and dusty conditions, Toyota crews took the overall honours, won each of the three classes and walked off with the manufacturers’ team prize. Only 13 of the original 25 Production Vehicles that started the race reached the finish and seven of these were Toyotas.
Overall winners and first in the Super Production class in a Toyota Hilux were privateers and reigning class E champions Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus in their first year in the premier class. They completed the 435 km race in a time of 05:41:50, crossing the finish line at Carnival City 1:30 minute ahead of the SP Ford Ranger of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable and 7:21 mins clear of third-placed Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in an SP Toyota Hilux.
Father and son Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn brought their Toyota Hilux home in sixth place, while Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (Hilux) were eight and first in class D, Dirk Putter and Koos Claassens (Hilux) were ninth and first in class E, Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Hilux) were 10th and Diederik Hattingh and Buks Cilliers (Hilux) were 13th.
Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin looked set to win their first race of the season in the factory SP Castrol Toyota after completing Friday’s 73-km Donaldson prologue in first place and then leading Saturday’s race up to just short of the halfway mark. The Castrol Team Toyota pair was a comfortable six minutes or so ahead of eventual winners Labuschagne and Erasmus when the Hilux experienced fuel pressure problems. Although they eventually managed to reach the compulsory service stop after roadside repairs, they missed beating the time-bar limit by 1:44.
Castrol Team Toyota team-mates Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, who had started Saturday’s race in 10th place in the second factory SP Hilux after having to stop and change a flat wheel on Friday’s prologue, got themselves up to seventh place in the first 50 km despite thick dust making overtaking both difficult and dangerous in the windless conditions.
Then they lost their way momentarily in the dust and dropped to 11th place. They had worked their way back to seventh and were chasing the Woolridge/Huxtable Ford when they also experiencing fuel pressure problems, just kilometres from the halfway stop. They eventually managed to limp into the service area at Carnival City in 16th place, 01:25:00 hours behind the leaders. Their service crew replaced the fuel pump and they rejoined the race just minutes before the time bar limit.
But the fuel problem persisted and they spent a frustrating second half of the race stopping and starting every 10 to 15 minutes as they battled to find a solution. With team principal Glyn Hall and engineer Michael Jardim in constant radio contact and offering advice, they eventually managed to cure the problem, but not before they had left themselves the impossible task of completing the last 90 km in 45 minutes. With the finish line just kilometres away they were time-barred and instructed to return to the finish by the shortest route.
"Congratulations to the Toyota privateers, who did a magnificent job today," said Castrol Team Toyota team principal Glyn Hall. "They saved the day for Toyota, a day that had looked so promising for a maiden win for Anthony and Chris. Our two cars suffered from a vapour lock problem, which was particularly affected by winter fuel - vapour lock characteristics are different depending on the time of the year the fuel is made – and also by the hot (32 degrees Centigrade) conditions.
"We eventually solved the problem via radio contact with Duncan and Rob, who constantly worked on the car as they stopped and started their way to the finish. They showed great determination and spirit and deserved to make it to the finish inside the time limit. It was a close thing and there were valuable championship points at stake with only 13 cars finishing.
"However, solving the problem was as valuable as gold to us. We can now go to the last two rounds of the championship confident that it won’t occur again," declared Hall.
Castrol Team Toyota’s disappointment was tempered by the fact that several of the other top contenders for the championship ran into problems of their own. With two rounds remaining Vos and Birkin, who led the point standings at the start of the weekend by 5,5 from Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, are now joint second with Terence Marsh and George Smalberger, three points behind Rundle and Mohr. Rundle finished Saturday’s race in seventh place, while Marsh came home fifth.
Just nine points separate the top five in the championship and with 25 points for a win the title chase is still very much on. The next round is the Human Auto 400 in the Free State on October 14 and 15.
2011/09/12 | 13:40 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/TOYOTA SA