Controversy mars Toyota Dealer 400
LONG TIME COMING: Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin make their way to a second place finish in the weekend's Toyota Dealer 400.
There was great joy – and great sorrow – in round two of the Absa Off-Road Championship this weekend for a number of teams as the Toyota Dealer 400 took to Mpumalanga.
The two entrants from the factory Toyota team ended a 13-year drought when they took a controversial one-two result in the production vehicle category of the Toyota Dealer 400.
Duncan Vos/Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin finished first and second to give the Toyota team its first win on a Toyota-sponsored event since 1999.
NUMEROUS PENALTIES HANDED DOWN
Toyota supporters, however, had to endure an agonising wait to see if penalties imposed by the clerk of the course Rex Boreham on the two works cars for deviating from the route would drop them down the pecking order.
Vos/Howie led home Taylor/Birkin and were then hit with a 10 minute and 38 second penalty for twice deviating from the route on the two loops that made up the route. That dropped them to fourth with Taylor and Howie hit with a five minute and 38 second penalty for the same offence.
Taylor and Howie, however, had enough time in hand to pip veteran former SA champion Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in their BMW X3. The revised results lifted Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (Hilux) into third place ahead of Vos and Howie with Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (Hilux) classified fifth.
Castrol Toyota team principal Glyn Hall then protested against the decision to penalise Vos and Howie and the race stewards scrapped five minutes of the penalty.
That saw Vos and Howie reinstated as winners of the race ahead of Taylor/Birkin and Grobler/ter Stege who were only 13 seconds behind the Toyota crew. Labuschagne and Erasmus were relegated to fourth ahead of Venter and Palmer.
Sixth place went to Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (Toyota Land Cruiser) who scored their second successive Class D victory. Terence Marsh and George Smalberger (Nissan Navara) and former SA champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger) completed the top eight.
The results, however, are subject to an appeal to controlling body Motorsport South Africa and remain provisional.
But penalty or no penalty Vos/Howie and Taylor/Birkin were totally dominant throughout the weekend. The two crews were first and third on the Donaldson Prologue that determined grid positions, and then romped away with the race.
Second to Weichelt and Smalberger in Class D were local pair Johan Horn/Werner Horn (Land Cruiser) while teenagers Jason Venter/Vincent van Alleman (Hilux) showed a lot of character in overcoming a string of problems to finish third.
Class E saw Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (Hilux) score a second successive victory. They were also among the penalised crews, but had plenty in hand over newcomers Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker in a Ford Ranger.
Meanwhile, in the special vehicle category, reigning South African champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald needed a protest to win a drama-filled race on Saturday.
The father-and-son team (BAT) finished behind Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (BAT) with Nardus and Louis Alberts, third.
Drama struck when race officials hit the Sullwalds and van Staden/Lawrenson with penalties for deviating from the route on the first of two 175 kilometre loops that made up the race.
That lifted the Alberts into first place ahead of brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco), who profited from a 20-second credit when they were held up by spectator traffic at a control point, with van Staden/Lawrenson slipping to third place. The Sullwalds were relegated to fifth place behind former SA champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (BAT).
The Sullwalds then protested against a five-minute penalty that was upheld by the stewards of the meeting and they went to the top of the leaderboard ahead of the Alberts and du Plessis teams.
Results, here, are also under notice of appeal and are, at this stage, are provisional.
The KwaZulu-Natal crew of Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell was also penalised for a route deviation, but had enough time in hand to hold onto sixth place ahead of Mark Corbett and Julien Hardy, who came in ahead of team mates Colin Matthews and Alan Smith.
It was the second successive Class P win for Matthews and Smith and gives them an early hold on the championship.
Among the high profile casualties were two-time SA champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald and Steve Parker and VZ van Zyl. The Sullwalds found themselves stranded in a mud hole while a string of punctures put paid to Parker and van Zyl’s race.
The next event on the championship calendar is the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400 in Richmond, in KwaZulu-Natal, on May 18 and 19.