Brian Joss –
With just 14 points separating Castrol Team Toyota’s two drivers, Leeroy Poulter and Anthony Taylor, at the top of the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship standings, round four of the six-round championship, the Nkomazi 450 in Malalane, promises to be a spectacular showdown between the two Toyota Hilux drivers.
Poulter and navigator Rob Howie have so far dominated proceedings, with wins on rounds one and two. They further cemented their position by winning the first heat of the gruelling Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in June. But Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy are the defending South African champions, and while Poulter drew first blood, Taylor has made sure to remain in contention, by chalking up a third place and two second-place finishes so far this season. The pair also won the second heat of the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana, leaving them just 14 points adrift in the overall standings.
“What is even more important,” says Team Principal Glyn Hall, “is that our nearest competitor – Gary Bertholdt (Ford) – is 53 points behind Anthony. So we have a fairly good lead, with three races to go.”
Bertholdt is tied for third place with fellow Ford driver Lance Woolridge.
In Class S, for vehicles with engines up to 4,000 cc and solid rear axles, it is Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo who top the standings. The 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux crew has had a strong season so far, with two top-five finishes on the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race earlier this year.
The Nkomazi 450 takes place on 7 and 8 August, in the area around the Mpumalanga town of Malalane. This is also home turf for brothers Johan and Werner Horn, who had a stunning season in 2014, but have struggled to regain that form so far this year. The pair campaign in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, and would like nothing better than to put on a good show in front of their home crowd.
This year’s Nkomazi 450 route is similar to that of 2014, though run in the opposite direction. The race starts with a 100 km qualifying loop on Friday. This is followed by two laps of 175 km each, starting at 08:30 on Saturday morning. The race HQ is at the Riverview Prep School, which is also the location for the Designated Service Park (DSP) as well as the start/finish.