In a race with more plot twists and heart-stopping moments than an afternoon soap opera, defending champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy added the 2014 Donaldson Cross Country Championship title to Castrol Team Toyota’s tally for the year. The pair finished fifth overall – high enough to bag the title – in the Atlas Copco Gold 450 after a disappointing qualifying round that saw them start the race from the back of the field.
“Anthony and Dennis really drove an amazing race,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after the final event of the season. “They had to take part in the mass start, but they fought back relentlessly and finished 5th when the dust settled. Enough to win the 2014 title by what turned out to be a comfortable margin in the end.”
Taylor/Murphy was embroiled in a battle for the title with the Malalane Toyota crew of Johan and Werner Horn, who ironically campaign Taylor’s championship-winning Toyota Hilux from 2013. Just 14 points separated the two teams before the final round, and when things didn’t go according to plan for Taylor/Murphy in the prologue, which determines the all-important start positions for the main event, it was clear that the fight was going to go to the wire.
“A rogue rock damaged one of our rear brake lines early in the prologue,” explains Taylor. “We lost nearly half an hour as we sorted things out, and even though we eventually got going again we had to settle for the mass start – not the place from which to win a championship.”
But champions don’t become champions because they lack tenacity, and Taylor/Murphy are proven champions. So they fought back throughout the 350 km route of the main event, overtaking an impressive number of competitors in the process, and placing themselves in a position to capitalise on any problems the front-runners may have. Their tenacity paid off, as they finished in 5th place – just two spots behind the Horn brothers, and enough to secure their second title on the trot.
Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the second Castrol Team Toyota Hilux started strong. Despite suffering a puncture in the prologue, the pair posted a time just seven minutes off the leading pace, and they came out of the blocks charging hard in the main event. An unfortunate accident near a road crossing saw them collide with one of the special vehicles ahead of them, which caused significant damage to their Toyota Hilux’s oil cooling system. They were forced to retire, and as a result had to settle for fourth overall in the championship.
In Class S for older-spec race vehicles it was 4×4 Megaworld’s Deon Venter and Jaco van Aardt, who took class honours in their Toyota Hilux, pipping newly crowned class champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux) by ten minutes. Despite the class win, Venter/Van Aardt had to settle for second place in the championship.
“We are overjoyed by our motorsport results this year,” says Hall. “Thanks to the great results achieved by some of the privateers who also race Toyota products, we have won every single class we entered in 2014, in both the South African National Rally Championship and the Donaldson Cross-Country championship.”
Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee bagged the South African National Rally Championship title in their Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000, while Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle achieved the same in Class S1600 (Yato Toyota Etios R2). In the Cross Country Championship it was Taylor/Murphy in Class T (the top class for production vehicles), and Visser/Le Roux in Class S.
“It was a fantastic year for us,” says newly crowned champion Anthony Taylor. “The team did an amazing job, and the Hilux was as reliable as ever. What a feeling to win two championships in a row!”
Castrol Team Toyota fielded the two newly built Dakar Toyota Hilux race vehicles on the Atlas Copco Gold 450. These same vehicles will depart for South America on December 15th, and be on the start line for the world’s toughest motor race on January 4th 2015.