Castrol Team Toyota achieved a clean sweep on Southern Africa’s premier cross-country event, the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race. A triumphant Anthony Taylor, with navigator Dennis Murphy beside him, led from early on Day 1 to take the honours after 1,000 km of frantic cross-country racing.
Teammates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie brought the sister-Hilux home in second place, just 32 seconds behind the winners. Third-place went to the Malalane Toyota Hilux pairing of Johan and Werner Horn, further cementing Toyota’s stranglehold in the standings.
“For us, this is an historic victory,” beamed an elated Glyn Hall (Team Principal) after Taylor took the checkered flag. “Anthony and Dennis drove an inspired race to take the win, after qualifying in seventh place on Friday. Leeroy and Rob did everything required and took second place with no major incidents.”
The race started on a high note for the team, with Brazilian guest-driver, Reinaldo Varela and navigator Gustavo Gugelmin taking pole position. The pair also competed in a Toyota Motorsport-prepared Toyota Hilux, and clearly had the bit between their teeth from the get-go. Poulter/Howie posted the fourth-fastest time, with Taylor/Murphy going seventh fastest.
On the first race day of the 1,000-km long event, Taylor/Murphy quickly caught up with their teammates, but it took a moment of confusion on the route to give the pair the gap they needed to take the lead. By the time the dust settled at the end of Saturday, it was Taylor and Murphy who held a slim lead over their teammates Poulter and Howie.
“We knew it was tight between ourselves and Leeroy,” said Taylor after finishing. “We both had our moments with flat tyres and other challenges, but in the end we were fortunate to hold onto our lead right until the end.”
The Castrol Team Toyota pair built an early lead over their competitors right from the moment the flag dropped near Jwaneng, 170 km North-West of the Botswana capital, Gaborone. This year’s route saw the teams tackle new terrain for the third time this year – only Round 3 of the 2014 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship was run on familiar terrain. This meant that the playing field was level for all the competitors, turning Round 4 of the Championship into a fair fight for all.
The new terrain featured more soft sand than in recent years, and also offered more chances for passing – both elements that conspired to ensure an exciting 33rd running of the Toyota-sponsored race.
“We couldn’t have scripted things better if we tried,” beamed Glyn Hall. “A one-two-three on one of our home events isn’t just immensely satisfying, but thanks to competitors scoring double points on this event, it also changes things for us in the championship standings.”
Because of the extreme length of the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race, the event is classed as a marathon event, which means there are double points on offer. As a result, defending champion Anthony Taylor bagged 50 points in the driver’s championship, stamping his authority on the overall championship, and showing once again why he is the defending champion.
Toyota’s Brazilian guest crew Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin also had a good race after a challenging run in the unique Botswana conditions. The Brazilians finished in sixth place, after they won the qualifying prologue that gave them the first starting position, and had to “sweep” the route for the rest of the field. Racing for the first time in Botswana on what was ultimately a brand new route, they hit a tree on the first section of race day one and dropped down to 10th at the overnight halt.
The experienced international cross-country crew gradually fought their way back through the field on Sunday to finish a brilliant sixth, ahead of Class S winners Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux.
Toyota also won the Manufacturer’s Challenge thanks to Toyota teams taking overall honours as well as winning Classes T and S.
The Toyota 1000 Desert Race, or ‘The Desert’ as it has become known, also offered certain competitors the chance to compete in the Dakar Challenge – a global cross-country challenge that sees the winners receive free entry to the 2015 Dakar Rally. Gary Berthold, in a Ford Ranger, won this year’s Dakar Challenge – and free entry into one of the greatest motor races on the planet.
The next round of the championship is Round 5, the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City, which takes place on August 8th and 9th, 2014.