Motorcycle competitors are looking forward to return to the gruelling Botswana desert on 22, 23 and 24 June when they will be competing in the Toyota Kalahari Desert Race 1000 (TDR 1000) that will form the third and fourth rounds of the 2018 SA National Cross-Country Motorcycle Championship.
The TDR 1000 will see competitors take on the best part of a thousand kilometres and the event will also include the TDR 1000 Desert Adventure for motorcycle and quad riders who want to do be part of the adventure, but who are not participating in the national championship series while it will also form rounds two and three of the Botswana Motorsport (BMS) Off-road Championship.
All the action will be taking place from the Jwaneng Sports Complex and while the annual TDR 1000 is about man and machine versus a thousand kilometres in the desert, it is also about thousands of spectators and supporters and the fact that the TDR 1000 is the biggest sporting event in Botswana.
Many would like to wear the King of Desert crown, but it will especially be local Botswana rider, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who will have his eyes on a third consecutive win in front of his home crowd. Botswana is Branch’s training ground and a hat trick of victories will look good on his racing CV as he is planning to compete in the 2019 Dakar Rally.
After the first two rounds of the 2018 National Cross-Country Championship, the Botswana rider is second on the overall standings and trails his arch rival, Kenny Gilbert (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) by a single point while they are sharing the same amount of points in the OR1 (Open) Championship. Gilbert, who has also entered the Dakar Rally, has just returned from Portugal where he participated in a two-day event to gain valuable navigational experience and as he had to settle for the runner-up result at the TDR 1000 last year, he will be determined for a victory this year. Although both riders will have to play it safe to avoid any injuries, this might turn into a nail biting affair in the desert.
As the faster routes suit the bigger motorcycles, one can expect to see the names of more OR1 riders at the front. Fellow Botswana rider, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) would like to show off some silverware in front of his home crowd while Branch’s team-mate, Louw Schmidt, will hope for a good result as he had a miserable start to the season. Like Gilbert, Branch, Schmidt and Lobjoit, Jaycee Nienaber (Holeshot Husqvarna) can also count on his desert racing experience as can Charan Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha), who is currently third in OR1 and podium results are possible for both riders.
The TDR 1000 is, however, also about experience and endurance and it has been proven many times that it is not necessarily only the size of the engine that counts. Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM) has won in the desert from an early age and this former multiple champion, who won OR2 (250cc Class) at the opening round, can win again. The OR2 leader, Taki Bogiages (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) will battle it out with his team-mate, Travis Gehlig, who shares his second place in the standings with Wynand Delport (KTM), an experienced desert racer who has returned to off-road racing after a break of a few years.
Although an outright victory is not that easy for competitors in OR3 (200cc), good results and a healthy amount of points will go a long way in the class championship as well as the overall standings where former High School champion, Stefan van Deventer (Motul Alfie Cox KTM) is currently leading. A battle royale can be expected in OR3 as Van Deventer leads his team-mate, Bradley Cox, by a mere two points, but on the overall standings Cox, who won the opening round overall, is again one point ahead of Van Deventer.
OR3 is a mix of young blood like Van Deventer, Cox, Maarten van Jaarsveld (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) and Barend Pretorius (Husqvarna) who all hail from the High School Class while experienced riders like Jarryd Coetzee (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who is third in the class and fifth overall and Wilhelm Schönfeldt (Yamaha) who is fifth in OR3, have been racing for some time. This mixture makes for exciting racing action. Lady riders Kirsten Landman (Brother Leader Tread KTM) and Carika Pieterse (KTM) will also take on the desert and it will be especially Landman who will try not to remember her huge crash in the desert in 2013.
Competitors in the Senior Class might have many years of racing experience that counts in their favour, but their fitness plays an important role in the outcome of the results. Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) has been in command of the Senior Championship for the past four years and has taken the early lead with Wade Blaauw (Roost Live Lesotho KTM) who has also made a come-back after taking a break for a few years. While they are neck and neck at the front, Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) is not too far back in third place and as Rally Raid racing is his speciality, a good result might be on the cards for him. Stuart Gregory (KTM) also has plans for the 2019 Dakar Rally and will use the Botswana desert as testing ground for his skills.
Participating in the desert race in Botswana for the very first time, is quite a challenge for the youngsters in the High School Class who will be testing their physical and mental fitness as well as their skills. Nardus Rabe (KTM) leads the class and will aim for a first victory this year while third placed Storm Viljoen (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) is third and a second consecutive win might just push him higher up on the podium. Ryan Pelser (TRP-RAD Moto RKM KTM) has been competing in this class for a few years and his experience will come in handy.
Like the last few seasons, the ongoing battle between the defending Master Class champion, Pieter Holl (Bert Smith All Stars KTM) and former champ, Wayne Farmer (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) will continue in the desert. With two victories so far this season behind his name, Holl leads Farmer by six points, but it can be a long three days and a total of 450 kilometres in the saddle for these competitors. Iain Pepper (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) is third in the class. Bringing it home safe will be the best way to secure important championship points with the season at its halfway mark.
The TDR 1000 will start on Friday, 22 June at 11:30 with a 35km time-trial that will determine the starting order for Saturday. The action will start at 07:00 on Saturday, 23 June when the first motorcycle competitor departs on the 198km loop that they will have to complete twice to finish at the Jwaneng Sports Complex. On Sunday, the racing action will again start at 07:00 with riders taking on a 223km loop which they will have to do twice for a total race distance of 877 kilometres over three days.
The race will be spectator friendly with various spectator points and fan parks along the route. The race headquarters as well as the start, finish and designated service park will be at the Jwaneng Sports Complex. Spectators and crews can once again expect an extremely exciting Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 with lots of motorcycle and car racing action.
Pictures: Giordano Lupini / www.zcmc.co.za