There is also an added incentive for the Castrol Toyota team on what is certain to be a tough event that will recall memories of the halcyon days of the Roof of Africa Rally. Toyota goes to Lesotho with a slender 66-point lead over Nissan in the South African Off Road Manufacturers Championship.

"It is an important outing for us," said Toyota Motorsport manager Wammy Haddad. "We are leading both the off road and rally manufacturers championships, so we will be looking for a big effort from all concerned."

There is also the added incentive for crews, all of them out in Castrol Toyota Hilux 2,7i models, to improve on current points positions in the overall and class championships. Toyota crews are handily placed in both categories, with Gavin Cronje and multiple South African champion Robin Houghton third in the overall stakes and second in Class D.

"We had a torrid time of it last year, and it was a race best forgotten," said the younger of the Cronje brothers, who made his off road debut last season. Since then Cronje has gained in experience and confidence.

"We are aiming for a good result, and I have learned a lot since last year," said Cronje. "I am confident with the vehicle, and it is great to have someone like Robin alongside me.

"It is going to be a tough race, but it is important that we finish well and keep our championship challenges alive."

Elder brother Mark and Chris Birkin, fresh from a second overall and Class D win on the Sun City 400, are sixth in the overall championship and have moved into fourth place in the Class D championship. The pair have a top five finish to their credit in Lesotho, but would like to go a couple better this time out.

"We have a good vehicle that is well prepared and we are looking forward to Lesotho," said Cronje. "The Sun City 400 result was a morale booster for us and a great deal of work by the technical crew paid off.

"With changes to the route this hopefully it will be a pukka off road event and not a 4x4 jamboree."

The other Castrol Toyota crew campaigning in Class D, former rally driver Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie, are 14th in the overall championship and eighth in Class D - but hope to climb up the leader boards. The pair has also not enjoyed the best of seasons from a reliability point of view.

"We need to do something about our championship positions," said Piazza-Musso. "I had my first taste of Lesotho in a Stadium Truck in 1997, and it is going to be tough.

"The major objective will be to get to the finish intact and pick up as many points as we can."

Class E leader Zane Pearce will again link up with Hennie Vosloo for the Lesotho Sun 400. Pearce leads the Class E driver’s championship but Vosloo, who missed the Sugarbelt 400 and Sun City 400, has slipped to fourth in the co-drivers championship. Pearce is seventh in the overall stakes with Vosloo 13th.

"I have finished every event this season, and we want to keep that record intact," said Pearce. "We had a torrid time of it last year, and finally broke down seven kilometres from the finish."

Pearce, however, hopes to avoid a harrowing experience on last year's event. After breaking down for the last time he paid a local R200 for a lift back to the designated service point.

"The vehicle was a clapped out bakkie and I discovered too late it had no brakes," said Pearce. "The driver was a jovial chap but felt he should impress me with his driving skills.

"Going down steep mountain passes with no brakes was horrendous and scared me out my wits. I have never in my life been so pleased to get out of any vehicle."

Experienced campaigner that he is, Haddad is cautiously optimistic. "There is a lot of experience in the team," he said, "and hopefully we can steer clear of the mechanical problems that set you back on your heels.

"The technical crews have been putting in a great deal of work after the Sun City event, and there is also a lot of confidence floating around the team. All we need to do in Lesotho is knuckle down and get the job done."