The Castrol Toyota Off Road Team aims to mount a major offensive on the 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in Botswana from June 3-5, in an effort to make up some lost ground in the Class D and E championship battle.

Class D contenders Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton and their Class E teammates Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo are the only Castrol Toyota crews to have completed both rounds of the championship run to date.

Cronje and Houghton finished fourth and third respectively in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape and trail Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris in the Ford Ranger by 15-points in the Class D championship and are fifth in the overall Production Vehicle Championship.

“The 2004 Toyota 1000 was the first event that Gavin finished in his rookie year and it’s good to know that he now has the experience and the pace to do well on this year’s event,” said four times winner of the Toyota 1000, Robin Houghton. “Fitness is very important and both Gavin and I have spent time with a sports therapist and nutritionist since the Nissan Dealer 400 and can already feel and see the difference in our performance, which should augur well for us.”

Pearce has amassed 29-points in Class E from a second place finish on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and a third in the second round of the championship and only trails Class E championship leader Hugo de Bruyn in the privately entered Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i by seven points.

“I’ve had a wonderful start to the season and am confident that I have now got fully to grips with the petrol powered Castrol Toyota 2.7i,” said Pearce. “Hennie and I finished sixth overall on last year’s Toyota 1000 and I believe we are capable of improving on our past performance and moving up a place or two from our present sixth position in the overall Production Vehicle Championship.”

Former Class E champions and 2004 Class D runners-up by one point, Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin had a bad start to the season with a non-finish on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400. The pair fought back in the Western Cape to finish in a well earned third overall and second in Class D after a race-long battle with arch rivals Schroder and Harris in the more powerful V6-engined Ford Ranger.

“Only five points separate the three Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i’s of Gavin, Zane and me so I’m not too concerned about making up lost ground and overtaking them in the overall Production Vehicle Championship battle,” said Mark Cronje. “Our real target is Schroder and Harris whom we trail by 19-points and I believe that our fitness and the reliability of the Hilux will be the winning combination in Botswana.”

Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie have had a dismal start to the season with two non-finishes not helping their cause at all.

“We have had an inauspicious start to the championship but a lot of time has been spent in the past month on sorting out the minor problems that caused our retirement,” said Piazza-Musso. “The Toyota 1000 is a very tough event and, apart from having a well prepared vehicle, the driver and co-driver have to be mentally and physically up to the task, which Ockie and I are.”

Toyota Motorsport’s Wammy Haddad is confident that the team will perform well on the Toyota 1000 Race.

“Last year all our Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i’s crossed the finish line and we also won Class E,” said Haddad. “The vehicles have been totally rebuilt in preparation for the event and I am confident that we can achieve the same success this year.”

“Who knows, maybe one of our Class D contenders could pull off an overall win on the 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race.”

Original article from Car