TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE CELEBRATES 27th ANNIVERSARY One of the longest running sponsorships in South African motorsport continues to flourish with the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana this year celebrating its 27th anniversary. The race,...
TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE CELEBRATES 27th ANNIVERSARY
One of the longest running sponsorships in South African motorsport continues to flourish with the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana this year celebrating its 27th anniversary.
The race, run for the first time in 1975, will this year be run from June 15 to 17 and is round four of the Absa Off Road Championship. Between 1975 and 1979 the event was known as the Total Trans Kalahari Road Race and quickly carved a niche for itself on the South African motorsport calendar.
The event had backing from IGI in 1980, and the following year Toyota stepped into the breach. The Toyota 1000 Desert Race was run in the Vryburg area between 1981 and 1990, and moved to its new home in Botswana in 1991.
Toyota South Africa first made inroads into the local vehicle market in 1961 as a supplier of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV). The company now offers a comprehensive range of passenger cars as well as medium and heavy trucks, but the LCV market remains the backbone of Toyota's ongoing success, and at the end of 2006 the company celebrated 27 consecutive years as the market leader.
Proving the Hilux and Land Cruiser range bakkies in the demanding world of off-road racing was a natural for Toyota in the 1980's. Since the early days of racing "farm" bakkies to the more specialised production vehicles that compete today, Toyota has continued to support off road racing..
From 1981 to 1991 the rules made provision only for overall winners to be declared in events. In 1992 the then Motorsport SA Off Road Commission decided to split the championship into Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories - with overall winners recognised in each category.
Toyota dominated the Production Vehicle category from 1988 to 1999 with Apie Reyneke, Kassie Coetzee, Philip Malan and Andre Kock winning the Toyota 1000 Desert Race nine times. Kock and Koos Coetzee won in a Toyota Land Cruiser in 1988, with Malan and Richard Leeke winning in a Toyota Hilux in 1989.
Kassie Coetzee and Leeke won in a Toyota Hilux in 1992 and 1993, and it was then the turn of Apie Reyneke and Lucas Dreyer, who had won in a Nissan Safari in 1987, to win in a Toyota Land Cruiser in 1994. Reyneke then teamed up with Robin Houghton with the pair going on to win in 1995 and for three years in succession from 1997 to 1999, with all their wins coming in a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Other notable Production Vehicle category winners include Hannes Grobler and current Motorsport SA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel who won in 1986 in a Nissan Safari. Grobler and Leeke, who has won the event seven times as a co-driver, won in a Nissan Hardbody in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with Grobler and Francois Jordaan winning last year..
Neil Woolridge has won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race three times -- in three different makes of vehicle. In 1996 Woolridge and Paul Vermaak won in a Nissan Sani, and then followed two wins with Kenny Skjoldhammer in a Mitsubishi Pajero in 2000 and a Ford Ranger in 2001.
"Toyota was a keen supporter of plans to move the Toyota 10000 Desert Race to Botswana in 1991," said Toyota South Africa president and chief executive Dr Johan van Zyl. "Botswana is a very important market for Toyota, and we have a retail market share of more than 40 percent.
"Our dealers refer to Botswana as Toyota territory, and the importance of our brand awareness in this market and in Southern Africa in general, is one of the reasons we have continued to support the Toyota 1000 Desert Race for 27 years."
Dr van Zyl added it was interesting to note the event has run for the same number of years as Toyota's market leadership.
The 27th Toyota 1000 Desert Race gets underway with a 50 kilometre prologue, to determine grid positions for the race proper, from 13h00 on June 15 with the start and finish in close proximity to race headquarters at Game City. The race proper will start at 08h00 on Friday 16 with a designated service point at Lentsweletau.
Competitors will follow a circular route back to the start and finish at Game City, with day one survivors setting out at 07h30 on June 17 to tackle the final leg of the race with the first cars expected at Game City at around 14h00.