MAIDEN VICTORY: Brothers Johan and Werner Horn secured their maiden win during Round 5, Force Fuel 450, of the SA cross-country National championship on Saturday (Aug 9). Image: Toyota
SUN CITY, North West - A maiden victory for brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Toyota Hilux secured the top step of the podium for Toyota; while Toyota's Leeroy Poulter drove a stunning race from 17th position all the way to third overall.
The Force Fuel 450 at Sun City turned into a tough grind for Poulter/Rob Howie, but the result was worth it.
Team principal Glyn Hall said: "We are very pleased with our results on the Force Fuel 450. Though it is unfortunate that Anthony (Taylor) and Dennis (Murphy) didn't finish the race."
OUT FOR THE COUNT
Things started well for defending champion Anthony Taylor/Denis Murphy. During the 100km-long prologue, run on Friday (August 8), the pair went fastest in the production vehicle category. But the Horn brothers were snapping at their heels, just four seconds back.
For Poulter it was a tough prologue, as this is his first full season in the Donaldson Cross Country Champhionship, and he is still racing as an unseeded driver - which meant a poor starting position for the prologue, resulting in a time that was just over six minutes slower than that posted by Taylor/Murphy in the leading Hilux.
When the flag dropped for the start of the race, at 8am on Saturday morning, Taylor/Murphy made their intentions clear as they muscled their way past one of the Special Vehicles ahead of them, losing a windscreen in the process. But then disaster struck: The pair suffered a puncture in the rough terrain, and was forced to stop to change the wheel. Unfortunately the change didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked, and the crew lost a significant amount of time before continuing at race pace.
NEAT AND TIDY
This opened the door for the Horn brothers, who simply kept it neat and tidy from start to finish, earning their maiden victory in style. For Taylor/Murphy the day got worse when their Hilux suffered a transmission problem, forcing them into retirement. This placed the Horns on the top step of the podium for the first time, with the Ford of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in second place.
Poulter said: "It was really difficult in the dust, but we managed to pass quite a lot of cars early on. By the time we were nearing the end of the second loop, we were up to fourth - and then passed Johan van Staden in the Nissan for third. We couldn't believe it!"
Having started the race more than six minutes behind Berthold/Rousseau, Poulter/Howie closed to within 35seconds at the end of the race. Poulter also commented that the recent changes to the suspension setup has resulted in a faster, more stable race car – especially in rough terrain.
As it was, this was Poulter's fourth podium in his maiden Cross Country season (including the two heats of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race), placing him third in the championship after five rounds.
Their victory on the Force Fuel 450 secured the Horn Brothers 25 points, and moved them into second place in the season standings, just three points shy of Taylor, who still leads despite his DNF at Sun City.
In Class S, for production vehicles with engines up to four liters, as well as solid rear axles, the result was similar to Class T. Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Hilux) took class honours, with Luke Botha/André Vermeulen (Hilux) coming home in third place. The two Toyotas were split by the BMW X3 of Willem Vos/Werner Weiss.
Thanks to their wins in both classes, as well as various other strong finishes, the manufacturer's award on the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City went to Toyota.
Round 6 will take place at Vryburg on September 12/13 2014.