Toyota privateers Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (class SP International Trucks Toyota Hilux) are the provisional winners of the 2011 Absa South Africa Off Road Championship after they finished second in the final round, the RFS Magalies 400 near Krugersdorp on Saturday.
Driving the ex-Toyota Motorsport Hilux campaigned in last year’s championship by Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, Visser and Le Roux finished the eight-round championship with 96,5 points to beat the Toyota Motorsport Castrol Toyota Hilux pairing of Vos and Howie into second place by 18,5 points. Last year Visser’s older brother Chris won the championship with Japie Badenhorst in a class SP Toyota Hilux.
In the process they gave Toyota its second successive drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships to go with the manufacturers’ title that was already secured with two rounds remaining. Toyota also won the manufacturers’ award for the day with second (Visser and Le Roux), third (Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus, class SP Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux) and fourth (Vos and Howie).
Visser and Le Roux had looked like winning the two-day event, which was run in 30-plus degrees Centigrade temperatures and extremely dusty conditions, after leading from just before the halfway mark of Saturday’s 340 kilometre route. But they suffered two punctures within the final 10 kilometres and were passed with five kilometres to go by the BMW X3 of Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege.
Vos and Howie suffered a puncture in Friday’s 60 kilometre Donaldson Prologue while leading by almost half a minute at around the 30 km mark and started Saturday’s race in 12th place among the Production Vehicles and 26th in the combined field of Production and Special Vehicles.
They started today’s race as one of seven crews in with a chance of winning the championship, but a puncture on the first 169 kilometre loop and three more punctures on the second loop put paid to their title aspirations.
Castrol Team Toyota team-mates Anthony Taylor, who started today’s race in third place among the Production Vehicles and 11th overall, were also slowed by two punctures on the first loop and a split oil cooler. After this was replaced by the team’s technicians they dropped out of the top 10 and did well to finish eighth among the Production Vehicles despite a third puncture on the second loop.
They finished sixth in the championship with 59,5 points.
“It’s been a gruelling day for everyone with more ups and downs than a fairground rollercoaster ride,” observed Castrol Team Toyota team principal Glyn Hall.
“Duncan and Rob were in with a real chance of winning the championship, but their first puncture after they started so far back in the field really put paid to that. The heavy dust and the many punctures played a big role today with the destination of the championship in doubt almost until the end. ”Congratulations to Jannie and Joks on their fine championship. At least it was in one of our cars, which Duncan and Rob drove in last year’s championship and Jannie took over this year.”
Hall and his team’s attentions now turn to the 2012 Dakar Rally in January, in which they will compete with the two national championship Toyota Hilux double cabs, backed by IMPERIAL Toyota, Duxbury Netgear and the Innovation Group. Both Imperial Toyota Hilux pickups must now be stripped and prepared for the 9 000 kilometre Dakar challenge in time to be flown to Argentina on December 15.
Toyota Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Innovation Group, NGK, Imperial Group, SKF, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.