Toyota, arguably the most successful marque in local motor sport after more than 30 years involvement with factory-backed teams, will focus on rallying and off-road racing with its 2003 motor sport programme. This means that for the first time in more than 20 years there will be no involvement by Toyota in circuit racing. -

- “We have supported all three disciplines of four wheel motor sport for many years now, but the time has come that we have to focus our resources in view of rising costs and increasing competition,” commented Toyota SA’s Vice President of Marketing Communications, Francois Loubser-

- “In addition the position of circuit racing, particularly the Production Car Championship, is unsettled in terms of sponsorships and organisation. We believe this is a good time for us to end our involvement, as we would have to build all-new cars for the 2003 season, which would be a considerable expense.” -

- ”However, we will increase our factory-backed support for both rallying and off-road racing, with two rally cars and three off-road racing 4x4 bakkies for 2003, after having entered one rally car and two off-road vehicles in 2002. Both our young racing drivers, Charl Wilken and Mark Cronje, will be deployed in our 2003 rallying and off-road racing programmes`. -

- "We are extremely delighted that our naming sponsor, Castrol, and other major supporter, Panasonic, have bought into our revised local motor sport strategy and will be backing our team in 2003. Castrol has now been involved with Toyota for about 20 years, while Panasonic became a major team sponsor in 2000. The tie-up with Panasonic is a 'natural', as that company is the naming sponsor of Toyota's Formula 1 team," commented Francois Loubser. -

- Eight times South African rally champion, Serge Damseaux, of Cape Town, will drive a new Toyota RunX RSi in 2003. This car will be adapted to local A8 regulations that permit the fitment of a two-litre engine. His co-driver will be reigning African champion, Robert Paisley, of Durban, who joined Damseaux towards the end of the 2002 season. -

- The second “works” rally car will be another RunX RSi. This car will compete in Class N3 and will be driven by Charl Wilken, with Robin Houghton, a multiple off-road racing champion, as his co-driver. -

- These two Pretorians have rallied together four times already over the past two years, with two second places overall in the Pretoria all-tar rally, an excellent eighth overall and second in Class A6 in the Cape Rally and then a disappointing end to the Toyota Dealers’ Great North Rally, when their Castrol Toyota Corolla was badly damaged after it rolled several times in a forest. -

- Seven times national champion, Apie Reyneke, will once again lead Toyota’s onslaught in the national off-road championship. He will share an improved version of the Class T Land Cruiser bakkie with Robin Houghton. -

- Backing up these former champions will be Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Kassie Coetzee/Okkie Fourie in Hilux 4x4 bakkies. The latter will compete in Class E, with Cronje and Birkin having a 2700i petrol engine and Coetzee and Fourie using the 3-litre KZ-TE turbo diesel. The latter vehicle will be prepared at the Toyota Engineering Centre, in Durban, by the team that built and prepared the Condor that Coetzee and Fourie raced in 2001 and 2002. All the other vehicles will be built and prepared at Toyota Motorsport in Sandton. -

- “Although withdrawing from track racing was not an easy decision, considering our long and successful involvement at circuits all around the country, we believe that in today’s environment it is essential to concentrate our efforts.” concluded Francois Loubser. -

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