A fighting third overall for Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn and two class victories were the main ingredients of a mixed bag for Toyota on the Sun City 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, over the weekend.

With the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux entries of Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton falling by the wayside on an event fraught with problems for the two teams, the de Bruyn’s (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) put in a gutsy performance. It was their best result of the season and went hand in hand with Toyota wins in Class D and Class E.

A tale of woe for the two factory cars started with the Friday prologue to determine grid times. While Cronje/Birkin had a good run to finish second Taylor/Houghton ran into problems that included a flat wheel and the car jack coming loose.

For Cronje and Birkin the race was a nightmare. The pair were hampered by no fewer than five punctures and when they eventually ran out of wheels they were forced to call it a day.

To add insult to injury the pair were excluded from the results for outside assistance. Toyota appealed to the stewards against the decision and Cronje and Birkin were then reinstated, albeit as non finishers.

“I suppose you could say it was a deflating event,” said Birkin. “This isn’t a race we will remember too kindly.”

Taylor and Houghton also had a tale of woe to tell. A puncture and a broken brake line 30 kilometres after the start were followed by another episode with the recalcitrant jack.

Then exhaust then fell off and two more flats saw them also run out of wheels. They retired before the end of the first of the two loops that made up the route.

“This sport is enough to make a grown man cry,” was Taylor’s laconic comment.

The de Bruyn’s were hampered by a misfire during the first loop. That was cleared at the designated service point and they finished the race with a flat right front tyre.

Solid performances saw George Barkhuizen and stand-in co-driver Ockie Fourie (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux), Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux and Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon finish seventh, eighth and ninth respectively. All three crews picked up little niggles with power steering problems a more serious handicap for Visser/Badenhorst.

After a disappointing season reigning driver’s champion Cliff Weichelt, partnered by Nico Els in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D finally came good to win Class D. They had a healthy lead over Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Nissan Hardbody), with the husband and wife pair of Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Toyota Hilux) picking up their best result of the season.

There was disappointment for Chris du Plooy junior and Henk van Vuuren in the RFS Toyota Hilux. After an encouraging season so far, they were forced into a retirement that hurts their championship chances.

The Class E win went to rookie Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux. It was van Breda’s second win of the season.

Second were championship leaders Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) who were around four minutes in arrears. It was a good performance from the experienced pair who had to overcome a 15 minute penalty for a late start on the prologue.

Third were newcomers Diederick and Danie Hattingh in a Toyota Hilux after another gutsy performance. Less fortunate were Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) who were among the race casualties.