Toyota Gazoo Racing SA continued their unbeaten run in the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, as former champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy recorded their first win of the season, behind the wheel of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux 4×4. The team, competing in association with Total Quartz, have won every round of the seven-round 2016 championship, with the bulk of the spoils going to newly crowned champions Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie.
“It was a sweet victory today, but I missed the challenge of my teammate,” said Taylor after taking the checkered flag at Sun City, in the Northwest Province. “Leeroy is still recovering from surgery, and it gave us the opportunity to bag the biggest trophy. With that said, though, no win comes easy, and we had to concentrate hard throughout the 450 km route.”
Taylor/Murphy were the fastest Production Vehicle through the qualifying loop, which took place on the Friday of the race weekend. They lead the field around two racing loops of 150 km each on the Saturday, winning the race by a comfortable margin.
“Anthony and Dennis had a perfectly clean run on both Friday and Saturday, and they certainly delivered the goods,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the DSP at the Sun City Resort. “At the same time, Conrad Rautenbach did a sterling job, standing in for Leeroy.”
Poulter recently underwent surgery to remove a cyst from the right side of his brain, and while he is recovering quickly, he wasn’t able to compete at Sun City. Rautenbach, however, teamed up with Poulter’s regular navigator, Rob Howie, and the pair set a blistering pace.
“Conrad did everything we could reasonably expect of him, standing in for Leeroy. He drove the Toyota Hilux with surgical precision, and together with Rob Howie, brought the second Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux home in second place overall,” said Hall.
At the same time, newcomers to the sport, Otto Graven and Bobby Brewis, sewed up the Class S championship with a win on the Sun City 450. The pair drove their Graven Motorsport Toyota Hilux with gusto, but kept it clean enough to ensure class victory. This gave them the championship, with one round to spare.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz were also in action in Sun City – albeit in an unofficial capacity. The pair tested the new Toyota Hilux Evo during the event, though they weren’t able to score points or assist their teammates in any way.
“The goal with the Toyota Hilux Evo was really for us to assess the new vehicle’s suspension in a real-world environment, and to do so over the course of a 450 km-long race,” explained Hall. “Usually we get to test new vehicles over much shorter distances, and to be able to cover this distance so early in the new Toyota Hilux Evo’s life is invaluable. As such Giniel and Dirk did a fantastic job, and we have a lot of new data to analyse, thanks to their dedication this weekend.”
The pair may well field the Toyota Hilux Evo again at the final round of the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country championship, which takes place at the end of October in the Gauteng town of Glen Harvie.