Desert Race - new battleground for arch rivals

Toyoya 1000 Desert Race a new battleground for arch rivals. The war of words between Special Vehicle arch rivals John Weir-Smith and Atang Makgekgenene has flared up again on the countdown to the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the...

Toyoya 1000 Desert Race a new battleground for arch rivals.

The war of words between Special Vehicle arch rivals John Weir-Smith and Atang Makgekgenene has flared up again on the countdown to the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, in Botswana from June 21 to 23.

The score is one all between the antagonists after the Barberspan 500 -- won by Makgekgenene and Paul Andre -- and the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 where Weir-Smith chalked up the first national win of his career. The Barberspan event was also Makgekgenene's first taste of victory at national level, and the Toyota 1000 Desert Race will provide a new battleground for the pair.

Weir-Smith and rookie co-driver Tony George, who also picked up his first national win on the KwaZulu-Natal event, romped home in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel BMW Jimco, and have taken an early lead in both the overall Special Vehicle and Class A drivers and co-drivers championships. Makgekgenene was partnered by Alec Salley on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and ran into gearbox problems, but sitting atop the championship table prompted a fired up Weir-Smith to fire the first verbal salvo in the lead-up to the Botswana race.

"Atang is in a position where he has to play the catch up game, and after Botswana is going to be even further behind in the championship," said Weir-Smith. "Tony has done a great job preparing the car, and we don't anticipate any reliability problems during the season.

"Atang has bought the latest Jimco, but that won't help. There is plenty of dust to go around on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, and Atang and whoever goes with him this time will be eating ours."

Makgekgenene will go into battle on the Toyota 1000 in a new Jimco fitted with a Wilk V6 engine, and was quick to respond to Weir-Smith's attack. "That first win has gone to John's head," said Makgekgenene.

"The problems we ran into on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 were unfortunate, but I reckon the new car will give me the edge in Botswana. Weir-Smith and George may have won a skirmish but the battle is far from won and lost, and we'll see who ends up eating dust."

The verbal sparring between Weir-Smith and Makgekgenene has livened up matters in the Special Vehicle category. Officialdom, however, will be keeping tabs on the pair.

"A little friendly rivalry is good for the sport and the Special Vehicle category," said Motorsport SA Off-Road Car Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel. "All the same we'll keep a fatherly eye open to see that the situation does not get out of hand."

-msa-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Tony George