Botswana 1000 Desert Race pre-event news

TOP TRIO LEAD TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE WINNERS With 18 victories between them in the 27-year history of the event, a trio of South African champions have down the years dominated the Toyota 1000 Desert Race. The race was first run in 1975 and...


With 18 victories between them in the 27-year history of the event, a trio of South African champions have down the years dominated the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

The race was first run in 1975 and was won two years in a row by Giel Lamprecht and Chris Hawkins in a Ford F250. Richard Leeke, with seven victories as a co-driver between 1984 and 2004, leads the all time list of winners, and is followed by Apie Reyneke with six wins and Hannes Grobler, last year's Production Vehicle category winner, with five wins.

Leek's first victory came with Paddy Driver in a Mitsubishi Pajero in 1984. He subsequently scored wins with Kassie Coetzee (2) and Philip Malan in Toyota Hilux entries and with Grobler (3) in Nissan Hardbody entries.

Reyneke scored the first of his six wins with Lucas Dreyer in a Nissan Safari in 1987. His next five victories were all scored in Toyota entries - with Dreyer again in a Toyota Land Cruiser in 1994 and four wins with Robin Houghton in factory Castrol Toyota Land Cruisers.

Houghton is still competing and is this year again paired with Bevan Bertholdt in a Castrol Toyota Hilux. After successive wins with Leeke from 2002 to 2004, Grobler won again last year with Francois Jordaan and a win this year would see him draw level with Reyneke.

Grobler's first victory came in 1986 with current Motorsport SA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel. The ebullient Grobler then had to wait 17 years for his next victory in 2002.

Next on the list with four wins are the father and son combination of Franz Czepek senior and junior. The pair won three times in a row between 1997 and 1999 and again in 2001.

Buks Carolin and Neil Woolridge, who is still competing, each have three victories with the latter's wins coming in three different vehicles. Woolridge won for the first time in 1996 with Paul Vermaak in a Nissan Sani, and with Kenny Skjoldhammer won in 2000 in a Mitsubishi Pajero and in a Ford the following year.

The Special Vehicle category has only three times been won by a singleseater with Des Tarboton (1982), Rob Wark (1994) and Marius Beaurain doing the trick in a Might Mag in 1996. And the race has twice been won by a woman with Petra Marais winning in 1979 and 1981 with Mervyn Woods and Selwyn Robinson doing the co-driving in a Kartmaster Sprinter.

But perhaps the most famous victory of all goes back to 1985. That was the year SA rally champions Geoff Mortimer and Spotti Woodhead tackled the event in an Audi Quattro -- and pulverised the opposition.

Throughout a long and colourful history the Toyota 1000 Desert race has seldom failed to produce some sort of drama. This year is not likely to be any different.


The Toyota 1000 Desert Race, to be run this year from June 15 to 17, provides an annual boost for tourism in Botswana -- and also provides the economy with a major foreign exchange injection.

"In terms of boosting the economy and tourism, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is one of the most important events of the year in Botswana," said Skean Drummond, representative of the Four Wheel Drive Club of South Africa committee in charge of organising this year's event. The Four Wheel Drive Club, first formed in 1972, has been involved with the event since its inception.

"The race has over the years provided a major boost to the Botswana economy, and has also had a major affect on tourism," said Drummond. "A great many of the visitors for the race have also discovered Botswana as a leisure destination.

"This has provided the tourism industry with a boost, but the event also provides opportunities along the route for small scale entrepreneurs to provide a wide range of services to competitors and spectators."

Drummond added that over the years the Four Wheel Drive Club, along with principal event sponsor Toyota, had developed a close working relationship with Botswana government departments and with the Botswana police. This year around 400 members of the Botswana police will be deployed to help with traffic and crowd control along the route.

It is estimated that the event will draw up to 50 000 spectators from South Africa, Botswana and neighboring territories over the three days.

"We get tremendous co-operation from the Botswana authorities," Drummond said. "Organising and running the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is a major logistical exercise, but the help from local authorities makes the job a lot easier."

Drummond added that around 160 officials were involved in this year's race organisation, and would be supplemented by 13 medical and rescue vehicles. All race officials will be in radio communication.

"In many respects this is a unique event," said Drummond. "Competitors have to put up with rivers, mud, deep sand, rocks and thorn trees and along the route the local communities - along with cows, donkeys, goats and chickens -- add a truly African flavour to the race."

-credit: msa

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