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SA-made Toyotas finish marathon

2004-07-13 06:29

LONG-DISTANCE SUCCESS: A trio of South African-assembled Toyota RAV4 SUV's finished the 2004 London-Sydney marathon.

SYDNEY, Australia - Three Made-in-SA Toyota RunX RSi units have completed the 30-day 15 000km London-Sydney Marathon that ended in Sydney on July 4 2004.

The endurance event was contested by modern, two-wheel drive cars with engines up to two litres as well as "classic cars" in two categories - pre-1971 and 1971-1977. There was also a section, the Clowes Cup, for those which completed the distance as a regularity event without the high speed, timed special stages of the anchor proper.

The highest placing among the three-car Toyota entry went to the person who put the team together, Graham Lorimer, a New Zealander who lives in Zimbabwe. He and British co-driver Nick Starkey finished fourth overall after a mishap on the second-last day. Their RunX hit a bridge, skewing front wheel costing them sufficient time to fall to third position.

HEAD GASKET

Former British rally champion Jimmy McRae and co-driver Bruce Lyle were leading the event in their Toyota RunX after the European leg but a blown head gasket early on the final leg, from Alice Springs to Sydney, attraced huge time penalties that pushed them down the order.

The team was forced to skip a day's competitive stages while the car was towed to an overnight stop in Roma where the gasket was replaced.

Despite driving very hard and winning the last three special stages out of the 55 on the event, the Scot had to settle for 11th among 28 finisners. He set the fastest time on 12 stages.

The third car in the Castrol Toyota team was crewed by Britons Steve Blunt and Bob Duck. They finished seventh, losing time when their car slid off the road in India and got stuck on a tea bush.

The six Toyota Corollas and RunXs that started the event in London on June 1 made it to the finish in Sydney.

Overall winners of the event were New Zealanders Joe McAndrew and Murray Cole in a Honda Integra R. Two similar cars, also crewed by New Zealanders, took second and third and the team prize.

SA CREWS

Both South African crews on the event - Theo du Toit/Andre Bezuidenhout and Franz Pretorius/Roelof Coertse - each completed the event in a Porsche 911, 19th and 22nd overall respectively and second and third in their class.

Briton Nick Thake, who had a number of family members rotating as sco-drivers, won the Clowes Cup. The family team drove a Porsche Cayenne. A similar vehicle, with South African TV commentator Graham Duxbury in the crew, together with British racing driver Mark Peters and his wife Noreen, finished fourth in this category.

The Toyota RunX units were built to the latest specification, as used for the "works" SA Class N3 version driven with success in the SA Rally Championship by Charl Wilken and Robin Houghton.

Toyota Motorsport SA fitted the bodies with roll cages and then Zimbabwean rally technician Darryl Claassen worked in the team's Johannesburg workshop from February to the middle of April creating the rally cars.

Claassen and another Zimbabwean, Ivan Pitout, accompanied the cars for the whole event in a Hiace service van.
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