Team Castrol Toyota is looking forward to the Mafikeng 500, which should be a welcome change after last month's extremely tough Lesotho Sun 400.

And with the Absa Off-Road Championship turning into the home straight -- there are three more rounds to go before the end of the season -- the Mafikeng event should be the ideal opportunity for the four Castrol Toyota Hilux teams to collect points and consolidate their positions in the overall as well as the Production Vehicle class championships.

Toyota's 2003 Class E champions, Mark Cronjé and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i), are this year competing in a Class D version of the same vehicle in which they won the Class E last year, and they boast a good finishing record so far, as they proved with a fourth overall and second in class on the Lesotho Sun 400.

They are currently second in the Class D championship -- 31 points behind class leaders Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford in a Nissan Hardbody -- and seventh in the overall Production Vehicle championship.

Cronjé and Birkin have done extremely well if one takes into account that they are running a four-cylinder Hilux in a class for six-cylinder vehicles. They have shown this year that they can stay with any of the more powerful vehicles.

However, they know that they will watch their backs on the Mafikeng 500, as they are only 2 points clear of Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler in a Mitsubishi Pajero.

Toyota's second Class D team, Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering, have moved up to fifth spot in the class championship points log, and tenth in the overall Production Vehicle standings after a good run in the Lesotho mountains. They finished seventh overall and third in class. Piazza-Musso, like the Cronjé brothers, is an experienced karter and the faster pace should be a welcome change for him as well.

Team Castrol Toyota's two Class E teams both failed to finish in Lesotho -- in fact, no Class E team made it to the finish line.

Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in the Castrol Hilux KZ-TE, and team-mates Gavin Cronjé and Robin Houghton in the Castrol Hilux 2700i are determined to put matters right and add more points to their tally. Pearce and Vosloo were leading the Class E field in Lesotho before coming to a halt a mere 7 km before the finish, while Cronjé and Houghton only managed 5,8 km of the race before hitting a ditch, leaving them stranded.

Toyota privateers Hugo de Bruyn and his father, Jaap, who are campaigning a Class E Hilux 2700i, are still leading the Class E championship in spite of the fact could not complete the Lesotho race before the cut-off time an hour before sunset.

They have a comfortable lead in the class, however, and the Mafikeng event should not pose too much of a challenge for them -- the terrain is similar to the off-road routes in the Vryburg area where they live and learned to race, while their Hilux is as reliable as it gets.

Sun City 400 Class E winners Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham (Toyota Hilux KZ-TE) farm in the Delareyville area and are also used to the kind of terrain they will encounter on the Mafikeng 500.

Original article from Car