It was a case of losing the battle but winning the war when Toyota Motorsport South Africa’s Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy and Duncan Vos/Rob Howie finishing second and fourth respectively in their class SP Castrol Team Toyota Hilux pickups in the season-ending Atlas Copco Gold 400 in Glenharvie west of Johannesburg on Saturday.
Taylor and Murphy had already wrapped up their first and Toyota’s 16th overall Production Vehicle championship in the penultimate round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, the Ford Dealer 400 in the Free State in October. 2012 champions Vos and Howie finished third in the championship with Vos achieving the remarkable milestone of being on the podium in each of the past eight years. He has been a winner four times.
Toyota won the manufacturers’ team prize for the event for the seventh time in eight rounds. Toyota had already claimed the overall manufacturers’ championship, for the sixth successive year.
“We’ve had a great season with our second successive drivers’/co-drivers’ championship and, with the help of Toyota privateers, yet another manufacturers’ championship,” said team principal Glyn Hall. “We would like to have finished with a sixth win for the year and we worked hard to achieve this. Both Toyotas ran like clockwork and were strong throughout. A Toyota 1-2 was very much on the cards. Overtaking was difficult today and punctures were always going to be a threat.”
Following Friday’s 60-kilometre qualifying race, which determined the start order for Saturday’s 314-kilometre main race, the Toyota Motorsport South Africa pair was well-placed to challenge for the 1-2 result they achieved in the same race last year, when Taylor won from Vos. Vos/Howie were fourth on the start line with Taylor/Murphy fifth.
Within the first 80 kilometres Vos/Howie were leading from Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rosseau and Willem Vos/Werner Weiss. Taylor/Murphy, who had been a close second behind their team-mates, lost six minutes when they hit a young tree while attempting to pass Vos/Howie in heavy dust. They were forced to stop and remove the smashed windscreen and rejoined the race in eighth place. They later lost more time when they stopped to change a puncture.
Vos and Howie were first into the compulsory halfway service stop at the Kloof Country Club after completing the first of the race’s two 157-kilometre loops and enjoyed a lead of 1 min 34 sec over W Vos and Weiss. A typically storming drive by Taylor, who has been the driver to beat this season, saw him claw his way back up to third at the halfway mark, a further 34 sec behind after making up nearly four minutes on the leaders.
After a problem-free first lap, it was Vos and Howie’s turn to be slowed by punctures, two of which in quick succession soon after the 200-kilometre mark dropped them down to fourth behind W Vos/Weiss, Taylor/Murphy and Bertholdt/Rosseau.
They charged hard over the remaining kilometres and caught Bertholdt/Rosseau, but had to settle for fourth place a tantalising 28 seconds in arrears and 3 min 48 sec behind race winners W Vos and Weiss. Taylor and Murphy made up another place and closed to 1 min 49 sec behind the winners to finish second.
Class D was won by Toyota privateers Johan and brother Werner Horn in a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup from Dana Vos and Hendrik de Kock in a Toyota Hilux. The class championship had already been won in the previous round by Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (Toyota Hilux) and the Horn’s win on Saturday cemented their runner-up spot in the final point standings.
Toyota privateers also took the top two places in class E, with Johan Pretorius/Gesina Dauth winning ahead of Douglas Fear/Kurt de Villiers. Fear/De Villiers finished second in the class championship.
The opening round of the 2014 championship, the RFS 450, will take place in the Free State on February 28 and March 1.