The 2004 Absa off-road season is almost complete, with only two races left on the calendar and although there is some pressure on the official Castrol Toyota Hilux off-road teams they are expected, as they usually do, to produce the goods.

The two official Castrol Toyota Hilux off-road works teams consisting of the former Rotax Max Karting World Champions and track racing brothers, Mark and Gavin Cronje, who race respectively with the veteran navigators, Chris Birkin and Robin Houghton, have proven, this year, that they can stand their ground in off-road racing.

Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in their Class D Hilux 2,7i, one of the few four-cylinder vehicles racing in this class against the six-cylinder vehicles, have had a consistent season so far finishing second on four occasions in Class D. This places them in a strong second position in this extremely competitive class championship. It is Cronje's second season in off-road racing and at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, he was complimented by the multiple off-road motorcycle champion and Dakar veteran, Alfie Cox, as one of the toughest competitors he has ever raced against.

Although Mark is a quiet guy, he is extremely competitive and takes he racing career very seriously and his preparation for each event is very important. A busy daily routine makes it difficult to stick to a prescribed diet, but he tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes a regular visit to the gymnasium and the recent acquisition of a bicycle to help him maintain a certain level of fitness. He maintains a love for his karting career, which helps him to stay racing fit and keeps his reactions and concentration levels sharp.

The day before his participation in an off-road event, Mark makes certain that he eats the correct foods to see him through a tough day during which he and Birkin sometimes do not get out their vehicle for 400km. Cronje sees to it that he does not dehydrate and eats pasta or chicken the previous night and bran and bananas for breakfast to enable him to deliver his utmost best in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2,7i.

Younger brother, Gavin is enjoying his debut off-road racing season together with the experienced multiple navigator’s champion, Robin Houghton in a similar Class E Hilux 2700i. Gavin has adjusted well to the change from circuit to off road racing and although he has experienced a few teething problems, he continues to gain valuable experience with each race.

Gavin like brother Mark pays a visit to the gymnasium three times a week where he follows a cardio vascular program. When he is not taking part in off road racing, he spends a lot of time in the seat of his kart.

His hectic schedule allows him to partake in “off limits” foods like chocolate and snacks every now and then, but he generally prefers calamari and kingklip.

Both Gavin and Mark have recently entered the property market and enjoy spending the little free time they have socialising with their girlfriends and friends at home.

The two teams, together with teammates Paolo Piazza-Musso/Rod Hering (Class D Hilux 2,7i) and Zane Pearce/Hennie Vosloo (Class E Hilux KZ-TE) will be in action at the Toyota Dealers 400 that takes place in the Lydenburg area on October 22 and 23.