|ABSA 2012: Team Castrol Toyota crews favourites for Sun City 400 Rally.|
The two factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries will be heavy favourites to win the Production vehicle category at the Sun City 400, round five of the South African "ABSA Off Road Championship", in the Pilanesberg on July 27 and 28.
Former South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin scored a crushing one/two triumph for the Castrol Toyota squad at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, and a repeat of that form will blow away the opposition. Vos and Howie will be looking for their fourth victory in a row, and will also be aiming at extending an already comfortable 33 point lead over Taylor and Birkin in the Production Vehicle championship.
The thing that will concern the opposition the most will be the manner in which the two Toyotas went about their business in Botswana. It was a ruthless display that will have set the alarm bells ringing.
A Ford Racing one/two for Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst and Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable is now a distant memory. Since then both crews have had their ups and downs with some gutsy performances rescuing valuable points that have enabled Visser and Badenhorst to move into third place in the championship.
While Ford Racing will be looking for a return to top form for both teams the RFS BMW squad will be hoping Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren can build on the podium finish in Botswana. It was a result that could kick start the rest of the season for the Pretoria youngsters.
Veteran RFS BMW pair Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege would like to bounce back after a disappointing Botswana visit and Gary Bertholdt, partnered again by Ralph Pitchford in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, is in the same boat. By contrast Hugo de Bruyn and Henri Hugo, in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux, will also want to build on a good Toyota Desert Race.
The most interesting entry, and one which could cause Glyn Hall and his troops to miss a little sleep, comes from the Regent Racing stable. Terence Marsh and George Smalberger will be out for the first time in the new Regent Racing Nissan Navara built to 2013 Dakar Rally spec and powered by a five litre V8 Infinity engine.
Teething problems aside, the new car could lift the ever steady Marsh and Smalberger up a notch and put them in a position to apply a little pressure on the factory Toyotas. Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson will be out in the V6 Nissan Navara, and Archie Rutherford will be in the SA Warranties Navara with former Proteas fast bowler ‘Vinnige Fanie’ de Villiers doing the navigating.
Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) need a clean run to restore their confidence with reigning champion Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the same boat in the International Truck Toyota Hilux. Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel in the rebuilt V8 UniFreight Ford Ranger and Louw de Bruyn Riaan Greyling, in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger will have their sights set on top 10 and higher finishes.
There is the makings of a good scrap in Class D where the main opposition for championship leaders Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger comes from Weichelt’s son Louis and Maret Bezuidenhout in the second of the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers. The younger Weichelt and Bezuidenhout held sway in Botswana and there are no team orders.
Mpumalanga pair Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) have been consistent while youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman are due a good run in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) will look to extend a remarkable finish record with Dana Vos and Johan Vlok capable of an upset in the Vossies Toyota Hilux.
Championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) will be heavy favourites to win Class E. They will be looking for their fourth win in five events and are now well clear of KZN crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) in the championship.
Diederik Hattingh, partnered by Kobus Kruger in the Transcor Toyota Hilux will be hoping their Botswana woes are over, along with Johan Griffioen and Willem Marais in the Force Fuel Toyota. A return to action by Gerald le Roux, partnered by Hendrik Badenhorst in a Ruwacon Ford Ranger, could muddy the waters a little.
Race headquarters, the stat/finish and designated service park (DSP) will all be located in the parking area at the main entrance to the Sun City complex. Entrance to DSP and spectator points along the route is free. The Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions will start at 12:30 on Friday, July 27 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, July 28.
2012/07/22 | 18:36 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE