After the first two rounds of the 2019 South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS), the standings in the Production Vehicle Championship are too close for comfort and the Toyota 1000 Desert Race (TDR 1000), that takes place over three days on 21, 22 and 23 June in Botswana, could be a turning point for many. The fact that the race has moved the challenge will include all-new terrain and the lure of double points will add to the pressure.
Intense battles can be expected in all three the classes in the Production Vehicle category and the distinctiveness of the TDR 1000 could contribute to the standings looking totally different after the event. Taking into consideration the TDR 1000 also signifies the halfway mark of the season, the pressure to finish each day and bring home maximum points will be high on the agenda.
In the FIA Class, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team-members, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy and Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Hilux) will arrive at Selebi-Phikwe in the east of Botswana with the scoreboard reflecting “deuce”. As the new kid on the block at last years’ TDR young Lategan scored his maiden win in the FIA Class and this time round it will be the first time Cummings will be strapped into the navigator seat for a marathon event.
However, having successfully finished the Dakar Rally twice on a motorcycle and various marathon events in Botswana, his racing experience will come in handy. Both teams have a point to prove and this will add to the excitement in the Toyota Gazoo Racing camp.
Add to that the fact that their team-mates and former champions, Shameer Variawa and Juan Möhr, have both completed many kilometres of racing in Botswana as well as at the Dakar Rally, the stakes be even higher. These three teams finished on the podium at the recent Berg 400 and will aim to do so again.
Desert racing experience might also count in the favour of Chris Visser/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who have had a dismal start to the season. They will hope for their luck to turn and sights will firmly be set on a full house of points.
It will be the first TDR 1000 for Ernest Roberts behind the wheel of the Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara while his navigator, Riaan Greyling, will return to Botswana for more action. They are third in the FIA Class standings and after a relatively good start to the season, more good results will bolster the determination.
A few Class T teams will again have their eye on overall victory at the TDR 1000. They will be reminded that it is possible as two Class T teams finished on the overall podium last year and filled three of the top five positions after three testing days of racing.
Defending Class T champions, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Team Ranger) will aim for a hat-trick of 2019 victories and solid results after each of the three days in Botswana as they did not finish the final racing section last year. Lance’s brother and team-mate, Gareth Woolridge and navigator, Boyd Dreyer rounded off the top 10 in 2018 and will again aim for good results.
The duel will continue with former Class T champions, Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) who would like nothing better than to post the same result as last year when they finished second overall with a fighting chance for the win. Another team who will have the same game plan, is Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who finished third. They would like to put the Berg 400 result behind them and get on with climbing the points ladder as they are currently fourth in Class T. Lots of silverware with accompanying points will be just what the doctor ordered.
Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) will also aim for a clean event as will Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (ATS Ford Ranger) who could only complete the qualifying race at the TDR 1000 last year. A full race season and more experience will come in handy this time around. Rally competitor, Theuns Joubert and Henry Kohne (Elf Renault DE Duster) will also tackle the TDR 1000 for the first time along with experienced team-mates, Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson, who have had a slow start to the season and will be depending on the desert to help them get back on track.
The 4×4 Mega World ARB Teams will be back in action for the first time this season with Jason Venter/Jaco van Aardt taking on the race in the FIA Class while Dylan Venter/Donovan Lubbe will be in action in Class T. With the first points on the scoreboard after the Berg 400, Wors Prinsloo/Kenneth Venter will also take on the TDR 1000 in Class T while Schalk Burger/Elvene Vonk (Nissan Navara) will use the TDR 1000 to gain more seat time and experience for their Dakar Rally adventure. Jaco van Dyk/Michel Rust (Red-Line Motorsport Nissan Navara) newcomers in the SACCS and the TDR 1000 are looking forward to taking on this iconic event.
Two teams have entered Class S and if the results of last year’s event are anything to go by, a tough battle is on the cards. Last year veteran competitor, Jannie Visser and his son, Chris, beat reigning champions, David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) by just over four minutes after a total of more than 12 hours of racing. This year Huddy/Schutte will be looking to add a third consecutive Class S win to their list while Visser will have his younger son, Pieter, strapped in next to him taking on their first national of the season.
The 2019 TDR 1000 will again serve as an opportunity for a team to win an entry to the world’s toughest automotive race, the Dakar Rally to be hosted in Saudi Arabia in 2020. Privateer crews who have not participated in the Dakar Rally before, are eligible to enter the Road to Dakar. The value of the prize is around R450 000.
The TDR 1000 starts on Friday, 21 June, at 13:00 with a 60km Qualifying Race that will determine the starting order for the race on Saturday, 22 June when 440 kilometres await them. The leading vehicle will leave the Sam Sono soccer stadium in Selebi-Phikwe where Race Headquarters, the Start/Finish as well as the Designated Service Point (DSP) will be situated, at 08:15 on Saturday and again on Sunday for the final racing section of approximately 400 kilometres. Teams who could not complete the race on Saturday, will be allowed to start on Sunday.