The Toyota 1000 desert race
For the Castrol and Innovation Group-backed factory Toyota team it was a case of so near and yet so far. Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin brought their Castrol Team Toyota Hilux Double Cab home in second place, 8 min 29 sec behind the factory Ford Ranger of defending champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst.
Those are the bare facts, but, as is often the case in off road racing, there was a lot more to it than that.
Taylor and Birkin dominated the event for all but 17 km of the almost 1 000-km route. They won Friday’s 60-km prologue (that determines the start order for the race proper), led at the end of Saturday’s two 245-km loops (despite a slow roll after being upended by the root of a tree and losing about three minutes while their team-mates helped them back on their wheels) and were looking at an historic Toyota victory on the 30th anniversary of Toyota’s sponsorship of the race.
Taylor explains: “As the finish got nearer we were starting to believe that we might make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s race while leading. Then, about 40 km out, we lost rear-wheel drive and soon after also drive to the right front wheel. When we arrived at a tricky dry river crossing with a very steep entry and exit, we knew we were in trouble. We tried to power our way through, but with one-wheel drive it just didn’t work.”
Just 18 minutes after they had arrived at the river crossing they finally powered their way out of the obstacle, but not before their closest rival had passed them. It was a disappointing short ride in two-wheel drive to the finish, but a great achievement nonetheless to finish second after all their problems.
Vos, three times a previous winner of this event, started the final day in 10th place after experiencing fuel pressure problems on Saturday while leading Taylor after his team-mate’s roll. Despite the best efforts of the Toyota technicians, who worked late into Saturday night, the problem reoccurred on Sunday’s first loop. Once a new fuel filter was fitted at the compulsory service stop at the halfway mark, Vos experienced no more problems and had a fast and clean run to the finish.
“We’ll have to have a good look at Anthony’s car back in the workshop next week to find out why the drive shaft failed. If the race had been just 17 km shorter we might have had the win we’ve worked so hard to achieve!”
In a strong showing by Toyota on their own event, three privateer Hiluxes joined Taylor/Birkin and Vos/Howie in the top eight. Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux were third, Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger were fifth and brothers Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn finished sixth. Their efforts helped Toyota to win the manufacturers’ challenge for the event and consolidate the marque’s lead in the prestigious overall manufacturers’ championship.