|ABSA 2012: Toyota to mount strong challenge in rally and off road series.|
The 2012 motor racing season will see Toyota Motorsport South Africa return to both the national off road and rally championships with strong, experienced teams and a clear mission to win both championships.
Duncan Vos and Anthony Taylor will drive the two class SP Team Castrol Toyota Hilux double cab pickups that helped Toyota win the 2011 manufacturers´ championship and which gave Toyota Motorsport a flying start to the new year with an historic and remarkable performance in the Dakar Rally in South America in January.
Vos and co-driver Rob Howie will crew the #3 Toyota Hilux in which they finished a creditable 11th overall in the Dakar Rally in South America, while Taylor and Chris Birkin will be in charge of the #7 Toyota Hilux, which finished a fantastic third in the Dakar in the hands of Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz.
Vos and Howie won two events last year, the Atlas Copco 400 in KwaZulu-Natal and the Sun City 400 in North West, on their way to second place in the championship and will be aiming to go one better in 2012.
Taylor and Birkin proved to be the pace setters throughout most of last season and were unfortunate to have to settle for a best result of second place on two occasions, narrowly missing out on a memorable Toyota Desert Race win in Botswana when they were delayed with mechanical problems just 17 kilometres from the finish after dominating the race.
"We´re coming off our successful performance in the Dakar Rally in January and we´re aware that a lot is expected of us this season," acknowledged team principal, Glyn Hall. "The Dakar demonstrated the reliability and toughness of the Hilux, as well as the fruit of good preparation and great driving and navigating performances. We´re confident we´re well placed to challenge again for top honours in the domestic championship.
"We´ve completely stripped and rebuilt the two Toyotas since their return from South America and, apart from new Castrol Toyota livery, which we have now standardised across both the off road and rally cars, they will be pretty much the same as when they did the job on the Dakar."
The Castrol Team Toyota rally team has a new look about it that goes beyond the livery of the two class S2000 Toyota Auris cars. Johnny Gemmell will have as his co-driver the experienced Carolyn Swan, while Leeroy Poulter will again be partnered by Elvene Coetzee.
While Gemmell was always in contention in 2011, but was unable to translate his pace into wins, he finished the season in third place with three second place finishes in seven events.
Poulter, in his first season in the top class after winning the S1600 class in 2010 in his first year of rallying, stunned the regulars with his speed and skill and scored two wins and numerous stage victories on the way to fifth place overall. At the end of the year he topped the official seeding list for drivers (which ranks drivers according to the results of the timed special stages in each of the rounds of the championship) and, just a week ago, was rewarded for his efforts with the prestigious title of Bridgestone/Guild of Motoring Writers Motor Sportsman of the Year.
"We´re delighted to have an all-female co-driver team," said Hall. "Carolyn, who has been with Team Total in Toyotas for many years, has won championships in every class in which she´s competed, bar S2000. I´m confident she and Johnny will make a winning team.
"We´re starting the new season with the same spec car that gave us two victories last year, including Leeroy and Elvene´s win in the final round in Polokwane," said Hall. "We´re on the limit of development with the Auris, but there is always room for improvement and we will be benefiting from changes to the engine and suspension as the season progresses."
The opening round of the Absa Off Road Car Championship is the RFS Magalies 400, which takes place around Tarlton International Raceway near Krugersdorp on Friday and Saturday (March 9 and 10). The rally championship gets underway on March 23 and 24 with the Total Rally in KwaZulu-Natal.
2012/03/10 | 14:43 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/DE VOS