It was a weekend of success in the sugarcane fields of Malelane for Toyota, as Castrol Team Toyota’s Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy finished in first place on the tough Nkomazi 450, Round 3 of the Donaldson Cross-Country Champhionship. Some of their thunder was stolen, however, as local heroes Johan and Werner Horn brought their Malelane Toyota Hilux (the same vehicle that Taylor drove to an overall championship victory in 2013) home in second place.
“We didn’t quite have the pace that Anthony and Dennis did,” enthused the bubbly Johan Horn after the race, “so we decided to keep our lines clean and focus on second place.”
For Taylor and Murphy, this result is a return to race-winning form, after a non-finish on Round 2, the Toyota Dealer 450. They are now tied with Ford driver Manfred Schröder for the lead of the championship, with the Horn brothers currently occupying second place.
The weekend started on a high for Castrol Team Toyota with Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie trouncing all opposition in Friday’s prologue of 100 km. They posted a time 4:30 faster than their teammates Taylor/Murphy, while the Horn brothers brought their machine through in the third-fastest time, setting Toyota up for a fantastic race.
“We couldn’t be happier with the result of the proluge,” says Team Principal Glyn Hall. “Having three Toyotas in the lead was a dream for us, and it is a bit disappointing to not have all three of them on the podium.”
The triumvate of Toyota Hiluxes was broken up when Poulter/Howie lost the left front wheel of their machine just after the 45 km mark. The cause of the mishap has not yet been determined, but a full investigation will be launched as soon as the team returns to their HQ in Barbecue Downs. The pair limped homeward for more than 30 km, before finally giving up. This is Poulter’s first non-finish in the 2014 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship.
“But that’s the nature of the sport,” says Hall. “This is cross-country racing, where anything can happen.”
Toyota also triumphed in Class S – for vehicles with engines up to 4,000 cc and solid rear axles – where Deon Venter and Ian Palmer brought the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux through in first place, thereby recording their second successive class victory. This victory also ensured the manufacturer’s prize for Toyota.
Next stop for the championship is the mighty Toyota 1000 Desert Race, which takes place on 27-29 June, in Botswana. With double points to race for, this race can be a championship decider, and Castrol Team Toyota will again be aiming for maximum points.