Toyota ends Off-Road title drought
Works Toyota crew Duncan Vos and Rob Howie made sure of the Production Car and SP Class titles at the Gold 400, final round of the 2012 SA Off-Road series on the West Rand at the weekend.
Second place behind team mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin was enough to wrap up the title chase for Vos and Howie. The Gold 400 result also saw Taylor and Birkin finish as runners-up to Vos and Howie in both championships.
It was also the first national title success for the factory Team Castrol Toyota team in a decade. Recent Toyota title successes came from privateer teams in 2010 and 2011 via Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst and Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux.
A disappointing seventh on the Gold 400 saw factory Ford Ranger crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst finish third in the overall Production Car championship. Fourth and fifth were the BMW's of Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren, and veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege.
However, anomalies in points allocations in the overall and class championships painted a slightly different picture in the SP Class. Here Visser and Badenhorst finished second behind Vos and Howie.
The Ford crew, and Taylor and Birkin each finished the season with 108 points in the SP Class title race, but three wins to one during the season saw Visser and Badenhorst claim second place on a count-out.
Australian resident Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (Toyota Land Cruiser) clinched the Class D title at the Human 400, the penultimate round of the series, and gave the Gold 400 a miss. In a close battle for second and third the father and son team of outgoing champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) edged out brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota Land Cruiser) by just 2.5 points.
Class E champions Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) also clinched the title on the Human Auto 400 but victory on the Gold 400 saw the pair finish the season with seven wins and a second. That was enough to lift them well clear of KwaZulu-Natal crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) who won the award for the season's highest placed newcomers.
Outgoing Driver's champion Diederik Hattingh (Toyota Hilux) finished third in the points behind Putter and Lamb. Hattingh, however, competed with a couple of different co-drivers and third place among the navigators went to Willem Marais who partnered Johan Griffioen in a Toyota Hilux.
Toyota outgunned other manufacturers throughout the season to finish well clear of Ford in the Manufacturers' championship with BMW third and Nissan fourth.
Consistency played a major role in BAT Venom pair Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen winning both the Special Vehicle and Class A championships. Hutchison and Stassen were the only Special Vehicle crew to end the season with a 100 percent finish record.
Championship rivals Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (BAT) stumbled at the final hurdle with their first non-finish of the season, while brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Magnum) failed to finish the Sun City 400 earlier in the season.
Hutchison and Stassen finished the season 30 points clear of van Staden and Lawrenson, with the Du Plessis brothers a further four points adrift in third - but vagaries in points allocations in the overall and class championships saw the Du Plessis brothers finish 1.5 points ahead of the BAT crew in the Class A standings.
Class P champions Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3) finished the season fourth ahead of the husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie, who competed both in a Porter and a BAT. The Fouries moved into fourth place in the Class A standings, with fifth place going to the father and son pairing of Nick and Ryan Harper in a second BAT Venom.
A timely return to form and a win on the Gold 400 secured the Class P title for Matthews and Smith ahead of Richard Fuller and Dennis Murphy in a BAT. Matthews and Smith finally had 17 points to spare over the Regent Racing crew with the father/daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne in third.
Matthews and Smith finished the season with five wins including three in a row at the start of the season. Fuller and Murphy took two wins, including the marathon Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, while the consistent Labuscagnes won the Sun City 400.