Brothers Mark and Gavin Cronje, both former Rotax Max World Champions, will spearhead the Castrol Toyota challenge in the 2005 Absa Off Road Championship, which gets underway with the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu Natal on March 18 and 19.

The archrivals have made a successful transition from circuit racing to off road racing with Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin winning the Class E championship in 2003 and finishing second in the 2004 Class D Championship while Gavin Cronje and five times navigators champion Robin Houghton finished third in the 2004 Class E Championship in the karting star’s debut year.

The brothers will campaign identical Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i’s in Class D in the first two events and then move to the new Super Production Class (Class SP) from the Toyota 1000 Desert Race onwards.

“I am looking forward to going head-to-head with my brother in what promises to be an exciting season,” said Mark Cronje. “We are rivals in business and in motor racing but have great respect for each other’s technical input and driving ability.”

“My rookie year in off road racing was one of mixed fortunes but I was happy to finish four of the seven races entered, survive a high speed crash on the Lesotho Sun 400 and pick up my first class win on the Toyota Dealer 400,” said Gavin Cronje. “Moving up to Class D and then on to Class SP in June is going to be a real challenge but I know I can rely on my brother and Robin Houghton to ease me through this transitional phase.”

Paolo Piazza-Musso and new co-driver, Ockie Fourie, will remain in Class D and Zane Pearce and new co-driver Peter Chadwick, both of whom are Durban based, will continue in Class E.

“We have a team of talented drivers and co-drivers in the Castrol Toyota squad who are more than capable of delivering good results and bringing home the overall Production Vehicle Championship and various class championships this year,” said Toyota Motorsport manager, Wammy Haddad. “The advent of the new Super Production Class will once again see Toyota competing for overall victory against the likes of the Ford and Nissan teams.”

“We also have great expectations for a number of privateer teams including reigning Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Class E Tyco Toyota Hilux 2.7i, father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Class D Bosal / N1 4X4 Toyota Hilux, husband and wife Marius and Tracey van Vuuren in the Class E Bosal / N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux 2.7i and Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham in the Class E 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux KZ-TE,” added Haddad.

Original article from Car