Toyota South Africa’s works driver, Mark Cronje, won the Rotax MAX Challenge karting world championship at the new Bridgestone Zwartkops International Kart Raceway, near Pretoria, at the weekend (January 170-19). Driving a Birel kart sponsored by Toyota, Castrol and Panasonic, Cronje won both the 25-lap pre-final and the 30-lap final. Competition came from 69 karters from 32 countries. This was possibly one of the biggest events in South African sporting history in terms of the number of competing nations, with 34 karters contesting the final. -

- Mark Cronje’s success followed a win in the first Rotax MAX World Finals in Puerto Rico in 2001 by his brother, Gavin, and a win in Malaysia in 2002 by another South African, Claudio Piazza-Musso, giving South Africa a hat-trick of successes in this highly competitive world series. -

- The Rotax MAX Challenge involves karters using a standard, sealed Rotax engine of 125 cc, the same type of Bridgestone tyres and a minimum weight of 160 kg. for kart and driver. More than 15 000 Rotax MAX kart engines have been sold worldwide since the introduction of this formula in 1998, showing the popularity of this formula. There are now more than 200 MAX competitors in South Africa. -

- The first Grand Final, in 2000, attracted 65 karters from 18 countries and there were even more the next year in Malaysia, where Mark Cronje finished fifth after starting on the back of the grid. -

- Mark Cronje is a product of Toyota South Africa’s development programme, starting in a Total-sponsored Conquest in Class E of the production car championship in 1995. He worked his way up to Class D and then drove a works Castrol Toyota Corolla RSi in 2001 and last year. -

- This year Mark will start a new challenge in his motor sport career when he drives a works Castrol Toyota Hilux in the South African off-road championship. He will also assist with the Castrol/Toyota/Panasonic motor sport development programme for previously disadvantaged communities, where the focus will be on karting on a national basis. -

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