The 2015 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship will reach its conclusion with the Atlas Copco 450, which takes place in the area around Westonaria, Gauteng, on October 30 and 31. For Castrol Team Toyota this will be an opportunity to underline their dominance in the 2015 season, having won every round so far in this year’s championship.
“It has been a great year for us,” said Castrol Team Toyota Team Principal, Glyn Hall, before the final race of the season. “We’ve managed to win every round so far, sealing the championship with a round to spare. Winning the final round too will be the cherry on top.”
This year has seen the coming of age of Leeroy Poulter, competing in only his second full year of cross-country racing, as part of Castrol Team Toyota. In 2014 Poulter was still coming to grips with the Dakar Spec Toyota Hilux, but in 2015 he clearly enjoyed racing the locally built and developed machine.
“Racing the Hilux is very different to driving the rally car,” explained Poulter, who won the South African National Rally Championship for Castrol Team Toyota in 2014, and finished runner-up in the 2015 championship. “Obviously the vehicle is heavier and much taller, but it can also withstand much tougher conditions, and it took me a while to get fully into it.”
This year saw Poulter and navigator Rob Howie power to wins on four rounds of the six-round championship, with former champions and Castrol Team Toyota Teammates, Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, winning the prestigious Toyota 1,000 Desert Race. Between the two crews, Castrol Team Toyota also won every qualifying race of the season so far.
With the championship already wrapped up, the team will be concentrating on their preparation for the 2016 Dakar Rally, during the Atlas Copco race.
“We will be running the two Hilux race vehicles that are going to the Dakar, as the team has to prepare them for local regulations in addition to prepping for South America,” explained Hall. “Anthony’s feedback will also be extremely valuable, and we hope to sign off on some changes we implemented after taking part in the Rally of Morocco earlier this month.”
The team will be hoping for dry weather, so as to make the most of the race from a testing perspective. Taylor/Murphy will be driving the car with which Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz competed in Morocco, while Poulter/Howie will be fielding a brand new machine.
In Class S, for race vehicles with solid rear axles, and engines up to four litres in capacity, the battle for the title is alive and well. The 4×4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux crew of Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo are at the top of the standings going into the final round, but they have a buffer of only six points over the Nissan crew of Rómulo Branco and João Serôdio. To make things even more interesting, defending champions Jannie Visser and navigator Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) will be competing in the Atlas Copco 450, and could certainly have an influence on the outcome of the race, and possibly even the championship itself.
The 2015 Atlas Copco 450 will be based around the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie, and the qualifying event gets under way at 11:30 on Friday, October 30. The main race is set to start at 07:00 on Saturday, and will finish well in time for the Rugby World Cup Final, which takes place on the same day.