Botswana: Series preview

TOUGHER THAN EVER TOYOTA DESERT RACE A tougher than ever Toyota 1000 Desert Race is the daunting prospect facing competitors on the 2009 Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Botswana from June 19 to...

TOUGHER THAN EVER TOYOTA DESERT RACE

A tougher than ever Toyota 1000 Desert Race is the daunting prospect facing competitors on the 2009 Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Botswana from June 19 to 21.

The event marks the halfway mark in this year's national championship and, while competitors face a tough weekend, it is a challenge they will relish. The Toyota 1000 Desert Race is the only long distance event on the calendar, and is regarded by the off road fraternity as the Comrade Marathon of the Absa series.

"The route once again takes in the usual thick sand, rivers and riverbeds, thorn trees and passes through some remote areas of the Kalahari," said Clerk of the Course Skean Drummond. The race is again being organised by the 4 Wheel Drive Club of South Africa with an army of helpers swinging into action.

"While the route goes into some remote areas it also takes in more popular locations like Mantswabisi, Hatsalatladi, Kumakwani, Medie and Metsemotlhabe," said Drummond. "By way of contrast from sand and more sand there are also a number of rocky sections that will test crews to the limit.

"It is going to be tough, but that is what the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is all about."

The event will again have its headquarters at the Game City complex in Gaborone. Documentation will be held on Friday, June 19 before the start of the 70 kilometre prologue to determine start positions for the race proper.

Drummond said the prologue was "an extremely tight, twisty and bumpy section of approximately 70 km finishing near the village of Gabane." A short section of back roads will take competitors back to Game City.

The race will start at 08:00 on Saturday, June 20 with a great deal of pomp and ceremony at Game City with a grueling section taking crews in a north westerly direction to the Mascom DSP (designated service park). There is a compulsory 15 minutes de-control at the DSP and from there competitors will head to Malwewe.

From Malwewe there is some high speed driving before cars turn south and tackle a tight section towards the Mascom DSP. Cars will remain at the DSP overnight with the Sunday, June 21 start a short distance away from the overnight halt.

The first section of the route on the final day will see cars complete a loop that will circle back to the Mascom DSP for a compulsory 15 minute de-control. The survivors will then set out on the final section which takes competitors back to Game City -- and frontrunners will be mindful of the fact that the event is often won and lost in the last 100 kilometres.

"Competitors look forward to the challenge the Toyota 1000 Desert Race offers," said Drummond. "While it is obviously going to be tough on men and machinery we have done our best to come up with a route that is varied and interesting.

"I think we have succeeded but the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is a unique event that over the years has taken on the mantle of the flagship race in the Absa championship."

BOTSWANA TOURISM BOARD IN MAJOR TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE ROLE

The Botswana Tourism Board is again playing a major role in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, from June 19 to 21.

The event was officially opened by the chief executive officer of the Botswana Tourism Board at a recent gala function at Game City, the race headquarters for the event in Gaborone. A cocktail function was also held where the organisers of the event, the 4 Wheel Drive Club of South Africa, paid tribute to the pivotal role sponsors and partners play in making the Toyota 1000 Desert Race one of the most popular and successful events on the annual motorsport calendar.

"Along with Toyota we work very closely with the Botswana Tourism Board and other government departments," said Clerk of the Course Skean Drummond. "The club has been involved with the event since its inception, and over nearly 30 years the race has developed into the biggest annual sporting event in Botswana.

"A major part of the success of the race is the good relationship we have with the Botswana Tourism Board and the other government departments with whom we deal."

Drummond added the influx of competitors, support teams and spectators from South Africa and neighbouring countries provide a major shot in the arm for Botswana tourism. The weekend also provides Botswana government coffers with a major financial injection.

"To Botswana the event is probably worth in the region of R5 million to R6 million in foreign exchange," Drummond said. "On top of that there is a tourism spin-off in that large numbers of people who are either competitors or spectators have discovered Botswana as a leisure destination."

He added that apart from the tourism boost, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race provided numerous opportunities along the route for small scale entrepreneurs to provide a wide range of services to competitors and spectators. It is expected that over the three days the event will draw in excess of 80 000 spectators from Botswana, South Africa and neighbouring territories.

"The Duma fm radio station will provide live coverage and spread the event message to a wide audience," Drummond said. "There will also be a Toyota 1000 Desert Race shop at Game City where manufacturers and teams will have on sale items like shirts, jackets, caps, memorabilia and other merchandise."

Drummond added that around 120 officials were involved in this year's race organisation, and would be supplemented by 11 medical and rescue vehicles. All race officials will be in radio communication, and about 400 Botswana police officers would be deployed along the route to handle crowd control.

"Organising the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is a major logistical exercise, but in many respects this is a unique event with a truly Africa flavour," Drummond added. "Along the route the local communities, together with cows, donkeys, goats and chickens add a dimension to the race that is typically African."

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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