Meet the Team
Mark Cronje and Robert PaisleyMark Cronje is recognised as one of the fastest and most versatile drivers on the South African motorsport scene, and he's proven his credentials on the international stage too by winning the 2003 World Rotax Max Karting Championship
Cronje started his circuit racing career in 1990 and joined the Toyota development team in 1996, winning the Production Car Class E title and Rookie of the Year award. In 1999, he moved to Class D in a Toyota Tazz. He was introduced to off-road racing with the Castrol Toyota squad in 2003, and began earning his wings in rallying in 2006.
Cronje, along with veteran co-driver Chris Birkin, certainly made his mark in off-road racing, as the Gauteng pairing surpassed all expectations by comfortably winning Class E in Mark’s debut year after completing all eight events for the year. The following season they progressed to Class D, and despite fishing seven out of eight races, they narrowly missed out on the championship by a single point after a controversial ruling.
They continued in Class D in 2005, before moving up to the new Super Production Class in the Castrol Toyota Hilux for the 2006 season. They were consistently at the top of the class in terms of pace with the Hilux for 2007, and remained among the strongest challengers in this sport for the 2008 season, claiming victory on the Eastern Cape 1000, as well as podium finishes in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana and the season-ending RFS Magalies 400. Ultimately, they concluded a very competitive year in fourth place.
With his move to the premier S2000 category for the 2008 season, Cronje was partnered with highly experience and multiple championship-winning co-driver Robert Paisley. Paisley navigated for Serge Damseaux between 2003 and 2007, claiming successive co-driver's titles for 2003 and 2004, with a tally of 19 rally wins to his credit leading into the 2008 season.
Together, the talented duo proved their mettle by powering Toyota to its record 13th win in the 25-year history of the Volkswagen Rally in Port Elizabeth in July 2008.
They also gave the exciting new Castrol-liveried Auris its S2000 debut on the Osram Rally in August, racking up two stage wins and coming desperately close to winning straight out the box, thereby setting a very competitive tone for the 2009 season and beyond.
Johnny Gemmell and drew SturrockJohnny Gemmell joined the factory Castrol Toyota squad in an S2000 RunX for the 2007 season, bringing a wealth of experience in production car rallying. It was a successful partnership, as Gemmell and co-driver Peter Marsh powered their way to two victories in what was recognised as an extremely competitive season.
In 2008, Gemmell and co-driver Peter Marsh notched up two second-place finishes and was consistently amongst the top-runners, ultimately ending as the top-placed Toyota driver and fourth overall in the championship standings. In 2009, he came achingly close to claiming the title.
Gemmell, who was born in Kenya and raised in Australia, started his rallying career in 1999 in a Toyota Corolla, before moving to Class A7 in 2000. He then progressed into the production-based N4 class with a Subaru in 2001 and became the first driver to win a SA rally outright with a production car, a feat he repeated on the final event the same year.
In 2002, he took on the FIA African Rally Championship, winning the challenging continental series. Adding to his growing trophy collection, Gemmell claimed the overall and class N4 titles in 2005, and was renowned as the fastest non-factory driver in the field.
Since 2006 he has been competing in Scottish regional events with some international experience thrown in on events such as the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster International Rally. In 2009 Drew he ranked 4th overall co-driver in the Scottish Rally Championship and as the top junior co-driver (under 25) in this championship.
At the beginning of 2009 Drew Sturrock was selected by a panel of rallying luminaries to join the MSA British Rally Academy, an elite group of rallying talent to be groomed for the future.
The young Scottish national had his first taste of South African rallying when he contested the 2009 Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally with Theuns Joubert.
Anthony Taylor joined the Castrol Toyota off-road squad mid-season in May 2008 to compete alongside team-mates Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin. Taylor has worked with Toyota since the Touring Car days, and is well respected for his valuable input in vehicle development.
Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton
Taylor has also competed in a number of rallies and off-road events, and gave the Toyota Auris S2000 prototype its first shake-down run in the Toyota Rally in Gauteng in October 2007.
In addition, he is closely aligned with team sponsor Castrol through his circuit racing exploits, with two Production Car titles to his credit under its sponsorship. He also fields a privateer Castrol-supported Team Afrox BMW in Class A of the 2010 series, and is the lead driver in this outfit.
Robin Houghton sits alongside Taylor in the SP Hilux, fulfilling the co-driver role. The Taylor-Houghton combination has certainly proved their mettle by winning the Magalies 400, the final round of the 2008 championship.
Until the end of 2003, Reyneke and Houghton competed in the Class T Super Truck class, but the decision was taken to move away from this expensive category in 2004. Reyneke announced his retirement at the same time, freeing up Houghton to lend an experienced hand to Castrol Toyota’s Class E efforts in 2004, and in Class D in 2005, alongside driver Gavin Cronje.
He subsequently navigated for Bevan Bertholdt from 2006, with this duo giving the Castrol Hilux its first SP victory at the season finale that year.
Houghton was awarded his South African National Colours for achievements in motorsport in 1998 and, as a stalwart of the sport, has the distinction of competing in all but one of the national off-road events staged since 1995 to date for Toyota. He missed one event in 2006 due to an injury.
The demise of the popular series forced a number of successful competitors to migrate to non-circuit competition. Vos joined Glyn Hall’s off-road venture together with Giniel de Villiers and went on to win the South African Off-Road championship in 2002.
He followed this up with consecutive titles in 2007 and 2008, and proudly joined Castrol Team Toyota for 2010 – now with Glyn Hall as team principal.
Rob Howie fills the navigator's seat for Vos, and too has a long motorsport career, which started out with running a two-car Group N team in 1995 while still studying. He later moved into the specialised field of race-car fabrication and component manufacturing where he joined Glyn Hall's Nissan motorsport outfit, which was involved in the first South African-built vehicles to compete in the Paris Dakar race in 2002.
For the 2003 and 2004 Dakar events he worked as a lead technician in the operation – notably for Giniel de Villiers in the 2004 event. In 2005 he was the lead technician on the Production Super D winning vehicle.
Howie started competing in the ABSA Off-Road championship in 2008 together with Thomas Rundle halfway through the season in Class E. For the 2009 season he joined up with Leeroy Poulter and scored to class wins (Class E). At the beginning of 2010 he moved across to Castrol Team Toyota alongside Duncan Vos.