toyota scores a whitewash
There was a time when Lady Luck used to give Toyota a real hard time in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, SA’s premier cross-country race, sponsored by Toyota. The team would lead, only to fall foul of some small issue, with another manufacturer storming through to take a famous victory. How times have changed. In this year’s Desert Race, Toyota recorded an emphatic clean sweep of the podium in the production class.
Three days and a total of 1 000km of Harry Flatters driving through the African bush. This is the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, held in the Jwaneng area in Botswana. It’s the headline act of the South African Cross Country Racing series, and also serves as the third round of the 2018 Road to Dakar challenge.
The race started with a 40km prologue test on the Friday morning, to determine the starting positions for the first 400km race day, on the Saturday. It turned out to be one for the books, as two top crews set exactly the same time.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s reigning champions Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy clocked a time of 28:40; a time perfectly matched by Dakar quad legend Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR5 Class FIA buggy).
However, because the Hilux V8 crew set the time first, they were awarded the number one starting position for Saturday’s race. The second Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, piloted by Henk Lategan and Barry White, finished third, 22 seconds behind.
On the Saturday, De Villiers/Murphy started first, but had the task of clearing the road and finding the correct route, with no clear tracks to follow.
It wasn’t long before Lategan/White took the lead, pulling out a gap over their teammates, with De Villiers/ Murphy having some navigation issues. Meanwhile, the Century Racing CR5 also had problems, dropping off the pace.
But another Toyota team was on a charge: reigning Class T champions Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux V8) were mixing it up with Lategan and White in the factory FIA-specification Hilux V8, the privateer team even leading the rally at one point.
On the day’s second loop, propshaft problems saw the Malalane Hilux drop down the field, and Lategan and White finished the day ahead of their teammates De Villiers/Murphy.
Two loops of around 240km remained on the last day and, as is always the case in the desert, the race is never done until it is done. Taking off from a road crossing, Lategan’s Hilux lost all drive to the wheels and he was forced to park the Toyota. This left De Villiers in the lead and he managed the gap between himself and the secondplaced Horn brothers, who had a great race.
Third overall were Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnit (Class T Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux V8), ensuring a podium whitewash for event title sponsors, Toyota.
The 2018 Road to Dakar challenge was won by Terence Marsh and Riaan Greyling (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara V8). The team won a free entry into the 2019 Dakar Rally to the value of about R400 000.
Round four of the South African Cross County Racing Series takes place over the first weekend of August in the Bronkhorstspruit area, on the border between Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
Main: Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Toyota Hilux) on their way to another victory. Top insert, left: Terence Marsh and Riaan Greyling (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara V8) scored a free entry to the 2019 Dakar Rally....