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ABSA 2012: Castrol Team Toyota prepares to defend Championship lead.





Castrol Team Toyota´s Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin will defend their first and second positions in the South African "ABSA Off Road Car Championship" in the Sun City 400 in North West Province this weekend (July 27 and 28).

Competing in the premier Super Production class in their Castrol Toyota Hilux, four-times former champion Vos and Howie have won three of the last four races, three in succession, including the recent "Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000" Desert Race. They lead Taylor and Birkin 98,5 points to 65,5 with four rounds remaining. Third with 58 points are former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in a Ford Ranger.

"We´re in a strong position to take our first championship with the Castrol Toyota Hilux," says team principal Glyn Hall. "The task now is to help Duncan maintain his lead - he´s more than two race wins ahead of third-placed Chris Visser - and to continue to be fast and consistent.

"We´ve just returned from a successful four days of sand dune and gravel track testing in the Namib Desert in preparation for our return to the Dakar Rally in South America in January. However, we´re still not performing to our optimum - every time we go out and test we discover something new. There´s still a lot more to come.

Vos, who finished a creditable 10th overall in the 2012 Dakar Rally with Howie at their first attempt at the world´s longest and toughest motor race, is highly motivated by the prospect of returning to the Dakar as the reigning South African champion for the fifth time. He scored a hat-trick of titles from 2007 to 2009 after winning the title for the first time in 2002 in a class D bakkie.

"Robbie and I have had a good run so far this year," acknowledged the 51-year-old father of two teenage boys from Johannesburg. "The Castrol Toyota Hilux is better than it´s ever been, thanks to a full season last year and the accelerated development as a result of our first-time participation in the Dakar Rally in January.

"This development is on going and the team has worked hard - and successfully - to find new improvements with each new round. Robbie and I won the Sun City 400 last year, so we feel confident we can do it again with the improved, Dakar-tested Hilux."

Taylor and Birkin are seeking their first win of the season after finishing runners-up to their team-mates twice in the last four events. "We´ve had the pace and we´ve led races. Now we need to sustain this performance through to the chequered flag and secure that elusive victory," said Taylor.

Toyota enjoys a commanding 191 point lead over Ford in the manufacturers´ championship with Nissan a further 39 points in arrears in third place.

Toyota privateers have made a valuable contribution with Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger leading class D in their Toyota Land Cruiser and Dirk Putter and Koos Claassens the front runners in class E in their Toyota Hilux.

2012/07/24 | 12:43 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/DE VOS











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