EXCITEMENT AS CROSS-COUNTRY ROUND 1 DRAWS NEAR
The 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Racing Championship gets under way on April 1st, when Round 1 takes places near the North West town of Vryburg, the spiritual home of cross-country racing in South Africa. Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will be fielding two Dakar-spec Toyota Hilux race vehicles in this year’s championship, and as multiple defending champions, are excited to tackle the new-look cross-country season.
Both Toyota Hilux race vehicles will compete in the newly formed FIA class, which is part of the Production Vehicles category. The new class was formed specifically for Dakar-spec race vehicles, and also opens the door for international competitors to race in South Africa.
“Essentially the FIA class allows us to run the Toyota Hilux in near Dakar spec,” explains Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “There are certain specifications that we need to meet in terms of the air intake restrictor, but other than that, the cars will be identical to the FIA’s cross-country regulations.”
This is an important change to the local rules, and effectively enables teams that compete on the global stage, such as Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, to test and hone their vehicles over the course of the seven-race local championship. As such it is an invaluable tool, and the team will commence testing for Dakar 2017 on Friday in Vryburg.
Last year’s champions, Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, will proudly bear the new race number 300 on their vehicle, when the flag drops for the prologue of the RFS Vryburg Endurance at the end of the week. The pair dominated the 2015 cross-country season, and completed the world’s most grueling motor race, the Dakar Rally, in fifth place overall. Poulter also won the opening round of the South African National Rally Championship early in March this year, behind the wheel of his Toyota Yaris S2000 rally car, and partnered with navigator Elvéne Coetzee.
Teammates and former champions Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy completed the 2015 cross-country season in second place overall, and the pair also won last year’s Toyota 1,000 Desert Race in Botswana – the toughest event on the local calendar.
Both the Toyota Hilux race vehicles that will start the RFS Endurance this weekend took part in this year’s Dakar Rally. Poulter/Howie’s car is the same vehicle they drove on the race in South America, while Taylor/Murphy will campaign the car that was in the hands of Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz during the Dakar. The latter pairing finished in third place overall on this year’s race.
“This year sees the Donaldson Championship start in a new location, and that really suits us,” continues Hall. “The sandy tracks are great for testing, and we love the idea of starting the season in the area where cross-country racing was born in South Africa.”
The area near Vryburg was also home to one of the greats of the sport, Apie Reynecke, who sadly passed away in a helicopter accident in 2015. Reynecke was a Toyota stalwart, and won the championship eight times between 1990 and 1999, behind the wheel of a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Friday sees the prologue of the RFS Endurance, which is used to determine the starting positions and time gaps for Saturday’s main race. The race will again be based around the Vryburg Motor Club, on the outskirts of town, and access to all areas are free of charge.