Reigning South African champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy today gave the Castrol Team Toyota Hilux factory team a Production Vehicle double for the weekend when they won heat two of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Taylor and Murphy, who won both heats last year, cruised in well ahead of second placed Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Atlas Copco Ford Ranger, who scored the first podium place this season by a privateer team. In the first two races of the season and the opening heat this weekend, all the podium places were filled by crews from the factory Castrol Team Toyota or Ford Performance teams.
Third today were championship leaders Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the second of the factory Castrol Team Toyota Hilux entries, who won both the qualifying race to determine grid positions and heat one. Their luck ran out today, however, with a broken brake calliper on the first of two 210 kilometre loops that made up today’s race costing them around 20 minutes.
“We tried our best to haul in the Atlas Copco car on the second loop, but the earlier incident left us with some clutch damage,” said Poulter. “In the end we had to slow down and settle for third.”
By contrast there was a clean run for Taylor and Murphy. The crew, in fact, reported no problems in qualifying and in the two heats.
“Once we got past Leeroy today all we had to concentrate on was keeping it clean and avoiding mistakes,” said Taylor. “I have been a victim of the Desert Race sting in the tail, and in this race there are so many little things that can catch you out.”
Behind the two factory cars and the highly experienced Bertholdt and Rousseau there was a dream result for Desert Race rookies Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger. Woolridge’s father is a three time winner of the Desert Race with the young crew hardly putting a wheel wrong throughout the day.
A top five finish was also just reward for an impressive performance throughout the weekend from Heine Strumpher and Henri Hugo in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Throughout the weekend the pair dominated Class S for vehicles up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension, with the North West crew revelling in the tight and sandy conditions.
Strumpher and Hugo were followed home by three premier Class T crews in Jurgen and Max Schroder (Regent Racing Nissan Navara), Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and the brother/sister combination of Jacques and Lizelle van Tonder in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger. The Schröders battled gearbox problems all day and completed the first and second loop with three out of six gears.
Two other Class S crew completed the top 10 with Deon Venter and Jaco van Aardt, in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, leading home Portuguese crew Rómulo Branco and João Serôdio in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. Two punctures cost Venter/van Aardt time while the Portuguese pair, who won the opening event of the year, found the going a little tough on the only marathon event on the Donaldson series calendar.
It was also an unhappy weekend for the works Ford Performance team with former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst the last of the classified finishers down in 14th place overall and ninth in Class T. Team-mates Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in the second of the Ford Performance Rangers, were forced to retire with a broken transfer case.
The next event on the Donaldson championship calendar is the Nkomazi 450 in Malalane in Mpumalanga on 7 & 8 August 2015.