It was a stunning, back-to-back victory for Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, when they won the inaugural Vredefort Super Sprint, Round 2 of the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, in their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux.
Brian Joss – Teammates Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy added the icing by finishing second, in an identical vehicle.
“We couldn’t be happier with the way our motorsport season has started,” said an elated Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the DSP in Vredefort. “We won both opening rounds of the rally championship, and have now done the same in the cross-country championship. Leeroy currently leads both championships, and we are excited about our prospects for the rest of the season.”
Poulter/Howie had to dig deep for this victory, as they trailed the Ford of former champions Chris Visser and navigator Ward Huxtable after the first loop of 100 km by 20 seconds. The Vredefort Super Sprint saw an innovative new one-day format, that had the crews start the first of the day’s two loops in the order of the national seeding list. This placed the two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA vehicles at the head of the field, forcing them to open the road.
“The track was covered in grass in most places,” said Poulter after the first loop. “This not only made it surprisingly slippery, but also obscured the tracks that we were racing on.”
As a result, Poulter/Howie started the second loop 20 seconds behind the Ford crew, with Taylor/Murphy further down the order, in fifth place, 1:08 behind the leaders. But both Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews fought back, posting the fastest times on the second loop – and making up enough time to hand them first and second in the overall standings after 200 km of racing.
Taylor/Murphy set the fastest overall time on the second loop, beating teammates Poulter/Howie by 19 seconds. But then Poulter/Howie had a one minute and one second in hand over their teammates after the first loop, so they still ended ahead of Taylor/Murphy in the final standings.
“What a race we had,” said former multiple champion Taylor after completing the Vredefort Super Sprint. “We pushed very hard on the second loop, and the Toyota Hilux ran like clockwork. We had to make up a lot of time, and that’s exactly what we managed to do – first and second for the team is exactly what we were aiming for.”
In Class S, for production vehicles with solid rear axles and engines up to four litres in capacity, 4×4 Mega World’s Heinie Strumpher and navigator Henri Hugo topped the standings in their Toyota Hilux, while Otto Graven and Ronald Graven, each driving a Toyota Hilux, completed the Class S podium.
As a result, Toyota was also awarded the Manufacturer’s Award for the inaugural Vredefort Super Sprint.
The next round of the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship is the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race, which takes place in Botswana over the last weekend of June, 2016. The Desert Race is the flagship event in the championship, and features a three-day race over a total distance of 1,000 km. The race HQ will again be based in the town of Jwaneng, in southern Botswana.