The Castrol Toyota Off Road Racing Team is in a confident mood after three of its four Hilux 2.7i bakkies finished high up the order on the 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana and has raised the stakes for the forthcoming Sun City 400.

Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) brought their battered but mechanically sound vehicle home in third place after a race long battle with Class D winners Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler in the Pajero. They missed out on second spot by a mere 6,3 seconds after 1000km of tough racing. The pair didn’t finish last year’s Sun City 400 so a good result will be important to preserve their runner-up position in the Absa Production Vehicle Championship and the Class D championship.

“I am still on a high after the Toyota 1000 result,” said a confident Gavin Cronje. “I haven’t finished the Sun City 400 so will be going all out to secure another podium spot and preserve our championship position without destroying the Hilux.”

“I know I have developed a reputation for being the team’s crash tester and the joke doing the rounds in the workshop is that if a component can last for one race on my Hilux it will last forever on the others.”

Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie recorded their first finish of the 2005 Absa Off Road Championship and what a finish it was. The former rally driver experienced clutch problems on the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i in the Prologue, which saw him start 58th on Racing Section 1. He nursed an ailing gearbox all day and finished 13th on Racing Section 1 and a clean run in Racing Section 2 earned him and Fourie sixth spot in the overall rankings and fourth in Class D. Piazza-Musso finished 11th overall and fourth in Class D in last year’s Sun City 400 and is confident of finishing much higher up the order this year.

‘We were the only Castrol Toyota finishers on last year’s Sun City 400 and hope to improve on our 11th place finish by ending up on the podium this time around,” said Piazza-Musso. “A lot of the Pilanesberg terrain is similar to that used for rallying so I will be in my element.”

The biggest transformation in the Castrol Toyota team has been Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i. They were only able to finish one race in 2004 but this season they have finished every event and now lead the Class E championship after winning the class on the Toyota 1000. They finished second in KwaZulu-Natal and third in the Western Cape and are the only Class E crew to have finished all events this year.

“I’ve turned over a new leaf this year and decided that it is all about conserving the Hilux and preserving the 100% finishing record and the Class E championship,” said Pearce. “I have really adapted well to the petrol engined Hilux, which is a pleasure to drive.”

Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin have not had the best of seasons in the Class D Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and have only managed to finish one event. The pair was in contention for the overall lead for 75% of the Toyota 1000 before the gearbox cried enough. They qualified third in the Production Vehicle category and trailed eventual winner Alfie Cox in the powerful Class F (formerly Class T) by 6m30s at the designated service point in Racing Section 1 and started 13m47s behind the reigning Class D Drivers Champion in Racing Section 2.

“Obviously we are very disappointed by what happened on the Toyota 1000 because we proved we have the pace and the vehicle to take the battle to the rest of the Class D field and even the big guns in Class F,” said Mark Cronje. “The Toyota technicians have done a great job preparing the vehicle for the Sun City 400 and we look forward to a podium finish.”

Toyota leads the Absa Off Road Manufacturers Championship by 95-points from Ford and 99-points from Nissan.

Original article from Car