TOYOTA AND DE VILLIERS CONQUER THE BOTSWANA DESERT RACE

The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the 2018 South African Cross Country Championship, again claimed its share of victims in a tough and tight race over three days and a thousand kilometres that tested man and machine. It was, however, the Dakar Rally expert Giniel de Villiers and his navigator Dennis Murphy who came out tops with their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux to conquer the demanding Botswana desert overall for the second consecutive year.

A victory for De Villiers/Murphy also ensured that Toyota continued their winning streak at this iconic event with a seventh straight win while De Villiers/Murphy claimed their hat-trick of wins this season. Another bonus was a 1-2-3 for Toyota in the Production Vehicle Category while they also walked away with the laurels in the FIA Class, Class T, Class S and the Manufacturers award.

“It was rough and fast and it’s always good to win,” De Villiers said on Sunday after receiving the chequered flag at the Jwaneng sports complex. The team opened the road on Saturday after winning the qualifying race on Friday and were the second vehicle on the road for the final racing section on Sunday, just behind their team-mates, Henk Lategan/Barry White. A puncture 30 kilometres from the service point after the first of the two 212 kilometre loops did not hold them back and they walked away with the overall win as well as the FIA Class victory.

Behind De Villiers/Murphy, Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) claimed the Class T victory after a problem-free race. They opened the road on Friday and were the first vehicle to tackle the qualifying race while they finished Heat 1 on Saturday only 35 seconds behind the Class T leaders, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (NWM Ford Ranger). The Ford team, however, did not finish on the final day due to the transfer case failing on their Ford Ranger 29 kilometres into the final loop.

After finishing the first heat on Saturday in eighth place in the Production Vehicle category, Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) clawed their way up the leader board to finish second in Class T and third overall. They showed real sportsmanship when they helped fellow competitors, Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) back on their wheels after a roll during the final section of the race. Bertholdt/Minnitt were followed by the Brazilian team in the NWM Ford Ranger, Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea who also rounded off the Class T podium.

The Class S victory went to Heinie Strumpher/Henri Hugo (Toyota Hilux) who led the class by posting the fastest qualifying time on Friday. They were 10th overall after Saturday’s racing section and a class win in both heats and final fifth place overall earned them a healthy amount of points, making their TDR 1000 experience worthwhile.

The Class S winners were in a battle for overall results with Terence Marsh/Riaan Greyling (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) and just pipped them on the final results. Marsh/Greyling worked hard for their well deserved second place in the FIA Class and finished sixth overall after a tough thousand kilometres. The pair also won the sought after Road to Dakar Challenge which gives them a free entry into the world’s toughest motorsport event.

Behind them, the desert race stalwart Jannie Visser and his son, Chris (Toyota Hilux) finished second in Class S after a trouble free weekend with David Huddy/Gerhardt Schutte (Nissan Navara) rounding off the Class S podium and claiming the eighth place on the overall standings.

The winner of the Rookie Class on the 2018 Dakar Rally, Hennie de Klerk, has not raced since his participation in South America in January and he teamed up with Japie Badenhorst (Treasury One VW Amarok) for the TDR 1000. After four punctures on Saturday and commenting that the TDR 1000 is tougher than the Dakar Rally, they persevered on Sunday and were happy with their ninth place overall and fourth in Class T.

Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Ranger) were fifth on Saturday, but lost time when they ran out of fuel about 10 kilometres before DSP on the final day. They finished the race in 10th place and fifth in Class T. Behind them Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (CR6) overcame their disappointment of starting Saturday’s racing section from second place after a perfect qualifying only to drop back to 16th place when they lost time due to a broken gear shift bracket. They again experienced some mechanical issues on Sunday but were rewarded for their perseverance with a third place in the FIA Class and11th overall.

The second heat proved to be much better than Saturday for the Dutch pair of Maik Willems/Rob van Pelt (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) who claimed the fourth place in the FIA Class.

There was disappointment for a few teams on the final day of the cruel TDR 1000. Notable victims included heat one overall winners Henk Lategan/Barry White (Toyota Gazoo SA Racing Hilux), Chris Visser/Phillip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who were sixth on Saturday, but could not finish on Sunday; Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) who rolled on the final loop on Sunday but were excluded for a rule infringement on Saturday; Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) who were the last team to finish on Saturday, but could not see out the distance on Sunday; Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (BMW X3) would did not finish Heat 1 or Heat 2; Malcolm Kock/Sean van Staden (Toyota Hilux) who were 13th after Heat 1, but experienced fuel starvation problems on the final day and LC de Jager/NM Killian (Toyota Hilux) who completed Heat 1 despite mechanical issues, but did not start the final day.

The 27th running of the distinguished Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race under the Toyota banner and regarded as the toughest cross country event in Southern Africa tested competitors over a thousand kilometres and those who survived, were rewarded with well-earned points towards the various championships.

Pictures: Nadia Jordaan