Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin (Castrol Team Toyota Hilux) won the season-ending Gold 400 in Gauteng today ahead of team-mates and new SA champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie to complete a fairy tale season of success for Toyota.
In an unprecedented display of domination, Toyota won all the championships on offer in an eight-round off road racing series that went down to the wire before the final outcome was decided.
In a brand new event in the Westonaria region of Gauteng’s West Rand heavy rain overnight resulted in a wet and muddy 340-kilometre race route that added more spice to what was already a tasty contest.
Toyota conquered the challenging conditions of the Gold 400 to take the top two positions in the production vehicle category as well as in the premier SP class. Third overall was the BMW X3 of Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren, who finished 4th in the championship.
Former champions Chris Visser and Japie Stapelberg (Ford Ranger), who were the only challengers to Vos and Howie’s title aspirations at the start of the weekend, finished seventh overall today and third in the championship.
Toyota also won the manufacturers’ team award for the final race with Vos/Howie, Taylor/Birkin and outgoing champions, privateeers Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux), who finished fifth this afternoon, producing the lowest combined score.
Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger (Toyota Land Cruiser) earlier wrapped up the season’s class D championship in the penultimate round, the Human Auto 400 in the Free State in October, while Dirk Putter/Koos Claassens (Toyota Hilux) clinched the class E title in the same event.
Taylor, delighted to have won his first race of the year, had a trouble-free run. “Chris and I knew we had to win this race if we wanted to finish second in the championship and we’re both delighted to have achieved this under very difficult conditions. It was very muddy and slippery and staying on the correct route was a big challenge.”
Vos, celebrating his fifth national championship, had already wrapped up the overall title before the start of the race, but still needed to make sure of the SP class win and the honour of carrying SP1 on the Toyota Hilux next season. With Visser only finishing seventh in class today, the new champion made a clean sweep of available titles in a fitting tribute to his and Howie’s mastery of the 2012 season.
“It’s been a long season and we’ve had to work hard for our results, but I’m very happy for the whole team that we’ve pulled off the championship win,” said Vos. “The Castrol Toyota Hilux has performed magnificently this season and all of this bodes well for our second visit to the Dakar Rally in South America in January, where we will be racing the same Hilux.”
Toyota Motorsport director and team principal Glyn Hall was equally elated with the weekend’s results. “We were under a lot of pressure to win this season and the pressure mounted as the outcome of the championship went down to the wire. We’re relieved and proud that we’ve managed to pull it off.
“Now we can concentrate all our attention on the very important challenge of the Dakar Rally in just six weeks’ time.”