Team Toyo is attacking the 2014 off-road racing season with a line-up that’s bigger, faster and tougher. For the first time in 15 years one of Australia’s most successful off-road racing squads, Peter Kittle Motor Sport, has switched to Toyo Open Country tyres in search of the edge required to win the ‘Bathurst 1000 of off-road racing’, the Finke Desert Race. Two PKMS Jimco buggies – driven by siblings Andrew and Matthew Kittle – will race for the first time on the Toyos at the opening round of the ARB championship near Broken Hill next weekend.
“Switching to Toyos is a big change for us after so long on another brand but we are confident the move will pay off,” said team manager Rob Richardson. “Other competitors who have recently switched to the Toyos have been very positive about them. “These buggies are so powerful that you can spin the wheels in top gear at more than 200 kilometres an hour; when there are trees lining either side of a rutted dirt track, you really want to have absolute faith in your tyres. “We’ve just finished testing in the Northern Territory, where our 35-inch Toyos have been really impressive, both independently and in terms of suiting the setup of our buggies.”
The team is also looking forward to bolting Toyo tyres onto its rebuilt Jimco trophy truck, which has undergone an engine transplant in preparation for its debut at Finke. The Toyota-bodied truck now has a Toyota 6.0-litre NASCAR V8, which the team converted from carburettor to fuel injection, mated to a five-speed sequential gearbox. “There was nothing wrong with the 3.5-litre twin-turbo Toyota V6 we had in the truck but the V8 will make it lighter and we think the lack of turbo lag will make it more driveable,” said Richardson. “The V8 certainly has a heap of low-down torque, which will give the Toyos something extra to cope with. “We’re very excited to reveal the driver of the V8 trophy truck in the coming weeks, but for now it’s a trade secret.”
Meanwhile, fellow Team Toyo competitor Billy Geddes is planning to make history as the first to run the infamous Finke desert track twice – first in his Geiser Brothers trophy truck and then on a KTM enduro bike. “After our rollover at Goondiwindi in 2012 I took the time to consider what I wanted to achieve in the sport,” he said. “That’s when the idea of the Finke dual run came about; attempting something that no one had ever accomplished.” After last year’s comfortable win in AORC class four and fourth outright in the championship, Geddes has used the off-season to hone his truck. “We’re running a much better all-round setup this year, including moving up to 39-inch Toyo tyres for Finke and possibly a few other races,” he said. “We may even run just one set of tyres down to Finke and back this year, because the Toyos can manage it without a drama.”
Goondiwindi champion Brad Gallard will also run 39-inch Toyo tyres this year, with the seasoned veteran going for his third straight win at the ‘Gundy’ track. “The 39-inch tyres really take it up to another level – you have to push even harder to get the car to slide, which I’m definitely not complaining about,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work on the fuelling system, transmission and power steering; our car has always handled beautifully, and it now has the strength, reliability and power to back it up.”
Winner of the 2013 ARB Series Danny Brown has switched from trucks to buggies this year, citing the sheer speed of the rear-engined racers as his biggest motivation. “On most Australian tracks the buggies are faster – faster through the bends and down the straights,” he said. “The new buggy uses the same 35-inch Toyo tyres and twin-turbo Nissan engine as we ran in the trophy truck – so we’re very familiar with both – and I have to say I’m looking forward to getting into an 850-horsepower machine and seeing what it can do. “We plan on defending our 2013 Series championship by going to all the rounds searching for outright wins, and I think we have the right team, sponsors and car to achieve that,” Brown said.