Colin-on-Cars – Race for Dakar begins

The race for Dakar 2022 is now on with entries open to crews that have never competed in the legendary event – this R650 000 prize from Toyota SA Motors going to the team that wins the Dakar Challenge at next weekend’s Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the iconic marathon event on the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) calendar, has found a new home for 2021. Additionally, the name has changed to incorporate Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, and as such the race will now be known as the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race.

It remains the longest and toughest event on the local calendar and will again offer Dakar hopefuls the opportunity to compete in the Road to Dakar.

Christo Rose and Arno Olivier

This race-within-a-race offers privateer crews the opportunity to win a free entry to the world’s toughest automotive race, the Dakar Rally.

In 2017 it was Treasury One’s Hennie de Klerk who won a free entry to the Dakar Rally, when he was the first of the registered Dakar Challengers to cross the line in Botswana. The Pretoria-based businessman did South Africa proud when he and navigator Gerhard Schutte not only completed the Dakar, but also won the Rookie of the Year Award in their SA-built Volkswagen Amarok.

Winners in 2018 and 2019 were not able to take up the Dakar challenge for various reasons, but this year the Road to Dakar is even more valuable than before. For 2021, the prize will comprise not only a free entry to the Dakar Rally, but it will also include a cash prize of 8 000 euros which will go towards securing the funds necessary to compete in the race.

“The Desert Race has long been seen as the toughest automotive race on the African continent, and as such it is a perfect fit for our Dakar-winning Toyota Hilux race cars,” says Toyota SA Motors Vice-President for Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “It is a point of pride for us as Toyota SA Motors to offer up another stern challenge this month – but also to offer this incredible opportunity for privateer crews to truly make the most of the Desert Race.”

Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne

Crews hoping to follow in the footsteps of De Klerk and Schutte need to register for the Road to Dakar before tackling the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race.

The winning competitor can choose to enter the next Dakar or the following one, effectively giving the team a maximum of 18 months to prepare for the race. This means that crews who have previously won the Dakar Challenge or Road to Dakar, but have not been able to take up their prize, are eligible to win again in 2021.

This year’s Toyota Gazoo Racing SA 1000 Desert Race will take place on June 18-20, in a new location around the town Upington in the Northern Cape. Despite the move to a new area, the race will retain its key characteristics as the only marathon event on the South African Cross-Country calendar: The race distance remains set at 1000 km; and the race will again take place over a total of three days.

“The Desert Race is the only marathon event on the SACCS calendar, and as such it offers us an unparalleled opportunity to test our Toyota Hilux in conditions that resemble those found on many Dakar stages,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall.

Elven Vonk and Lance Woolridge

It’s the longest, toughest event of the year – and it’s one the Ford Castrol Cross Country Team relishes, especially as this will be the first opportunity to prove the capability of the all-new FIA-class Ford Ranger, designed and manufactured by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), on a marathon event that covers a punishing route of almost 1000 km over three days.

“The Desert Race is a crucial event in the championship, as the race format covers three days and nearly 1000 km of competitive action,” says Neil Woolridge, team principal of NWM. “Unlike previous years where there were two separate races over the weekend, this is one long marathon event covering the full race distance, so reliability and consistency will be key to ensure we have a shot at victory, and are able to challenge for this year’s title.

“It will be our first chance to prove the capabilities of our newly developed FIA-class 3,5-litre twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost-powered Ford Ranger on a longer marathon event. We’ve done a lot of development work on the vehicles over the past couple of months, and have sorted out the induction pipe issue that resulted in both cars retiring from the Sugarbelt 400 in May.

“We designed our new Ranger to compete at the highest level on long-distance cross-country races around the world, including the most extreme and revered of them all – the Dakar Rally. So, this year’s Desert Race is the ideal platform to showcase the capabilities of our latest-generation Ford Ranger in some of the harshest and most unforgiving conditions we will face all year.”

The Ford Castrol NWM team has certainly proven its pedigree at this event, with Lance Woolridge and then co-driver Ward Huxtable powering their V8-powered Ford Ranger to the Class T victory in both heats of the 2019 event and, remarkably, the overall win in the second heat against the faster, higher-specification FIA-class competitors. This helped set the duo up to secure their second consecutive Class T championship title.

Lance Woolridge and co-driver Elvéne Vonk (334) are determined to taste glory once again at the 2021 Desert Race. They claimed victory for the all-new FIA-class Ranger at the season-opening Mpumalanga 400 in March, and are currently second in the FIA-class championship.

“Retiring from the Sugarbelt 400 was a huge disappointment for us, but I’m confident that we can make up for it at the Desert Race once again,” Lance says. “The competition is intense in the FIA-class, and we are going to have to be on the pace from the moment we set off on Friday’s qualifying session. Based on all the development work we’ve done on the Ranger, I’m really looking forward to seeing what it is capable of in the challenging desert terrain.”

Wors Prinsloo and Andre Vermeulen

Team-mates Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (377) also performed extremely well at the 2019 Desert Race, finishing second in Class T in both races, and runners-up in the overall results for the Sunday race. They were third overall at the Mpumalanga 400, and are intent on making up for their misfortune at the Sugarbelt 400. Gareth and Boyd are currently placed sixth in the drivers and navigators standings respectively, just 12 points adrift of Lance and Elvéne, and equal on 28 points with three other teams.

NWM-supported Ford Ranger V8 entries make up the bulk of the Class T entries and are currently placed second to fifth in the championship after consistent finishes in the opening two rounds of the series.

Malcolm and Frans Kock (T4) are currently the highest-placed NWM Ford Ranger entry in second place in Class T, ahead of Wors Prinsloo/Andre Vermeulen (T41), Christo Rose/Arno Olivier (T58), and Bernard Johnstone (T22).

Ford NWM Development Team

The Ford NWM Development Team of Bapi Rubuluza and Fanifani Meyiwa (T49) will have their second outing in the NWM Ford Ranger V8 after a solid finish at the Sugarbelt 400 – their first event together, and a commendable debut in Class T.

As per the current COVID-19 regulations, the Desert Race remains closed to spectators. However, fans can follow all the action and track the position of the crews using the RallySafe app which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

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