New home for desert race

Selibi-Phikwe in eastern Botswana is the new home for the 2019 Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the small town some 450 kilometres from the Capitol, Gaberone, hosting the event for the first time.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race is Round 3 of the 2019 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) also offers opportunities for the Dakar Rally.

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In the case of the TDR 1000, which takes place on June 21-23, the race remains the only marathon event on the South African Cross-Country calendar and will again be contested over a total of three days. The total race distance remains 1 000 km, though the expectation is the area around the town of Selebi-Phikwe will offer more of a bushveld feel, rather than the soft sand that has been a characteristic of this event for many years.

While the event has played a key role in Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s development of its Dakar-winning Class FIA Toyota Hilux, it also offers an opportunity for crews from other teams to win an entry to the world’s toughest automotive race, the Dakar Rally.

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This race-within-a-race is open to all privateer crews who haven’t taken part in the Dakar Rally before. The value of the prize is around R450 000, and may just make a difference for a crew wanting to take part in Dakar 2020.

For Toyota Gazoo Racing, however, the TDR 1000 serves partly as an opportunity to test and refine the Class FIA Toyota Hilux; but also as an opportunity to cement their position at the top of the championship standings.

“While it is true the Desert Race plays an important part in the development of our Toyota Hilux, we do not race just to develop the car – we race to win, and this year will be no exception,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “With that said, we will be equipping each of our cars with new parts that we would d like to test and validate as part of our Dakar testing schedule.”

The season to date has seen two of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA squads triumph. Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy (#301) drew first blood by taking the honours at the Mpumalanga 400 in Dullstroom, Round 1 of the 2019 season.

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Teammates Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings (#300) finished in second place, but then went on to win the Berg 400 in KZN – while this time, De Villiers/Murphy finished in second place, leaving the two crews tied on points.

“It was a great start to the local season for us, and we certainly can’t complain,” continues Hall. “We will have to see what the Desert Race brings this year. With double points on offer, this could well be the one that separates our two duelling crews.”

Former Special Vehicle champion, Shameer Variawa, partnered with Juan Möhr for 2019, finished in third place at the Berg 400 – completing the all-Toyota Gazoo Racing SA podium. The pair showed impressive pace, and will be aiming for a similar result in Botswana.

Behind the three factory crews, brothers Johan and Werner Horn will again be flying the Toyota flag in Class T. The Malalane Toyota crew find themselves in second place in the championship after Round 2, behind Ford’s Lance Woolridge and navigator Ward Huxtable. The Toyota crew will be aiming for maximum attack in Selebi-Phikwe, despite the challenge of an entirely new route.

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The event will start with a qualifying race over a distance of 60 km, with the main event comprising two loops of 470 km each. The race HQ and Designated Service Park (DSP) will be based at the Sam Sono Stadium in the town of Selebi-Phikwe.

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