The inclusion of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana1000 Desert Race, premier event on the ABSA Off Road Racing calendar and the biggest motor sport event in Southern Africa, in the inaugural Dakar Challenge means the marathon event will this year enjoy an even higher profile.
The new status of the race was announced by Richard Schilling, president of the Motorsport South Africa Off Road Car Racing Commission and the SA National Off Road Racing Association (SANORA), during the official launch of the 2012 event at a news conference in Gaborone, capital city of Botswana.
In his address Schilling said that the inclusion of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race in the Dakar Challenge provides another tremendous lift for African off road racing on the international stage. He noted that "inclusion in the Dakar Challenge adds another dimension to the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, already the biggest annual sports and social event in Botswana".
The announcement was welcomed by Ferdi de Vos, General Manager for Motorsport at Toyota South Africa Motors. "This new status will boost the event image even further, not only in Southern
Africa, but also internationally.
"This year's race is now one of only two events worldwide that, as part of the Dakar Challenge, will afford amateur car crews the opportunity to compete in the 2013 Dakar Rally in South America," he said.
"It also serves to enhance the association Toyota already has with Dakar after the fantastic performance of the Imperial Toyota South Africa Hilux team in South America earlier this year with Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz finishing third overall and Duncan Vos and Rob Howie coming in tenth overall.
"I believe that it is mostly due to this result that the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race was considered as a round in the Dakar Challenge, and would like to thank the South African Off Road Commission and the Amaury Sport Organisation for including our event in this prestigious series," he added.
The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, sponsored by Toyota for the past 31 years, is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular and challenging events on the annual motor racing calendar, and this year's race will be no exception."The Dakar association serves as extra motivation for the Castrol Toyota team to win the race with their Dakar proven Hilux V8's," said De Vos.
The Castrol Hilux challenge will be spearheaded by Vos and Howie, supported by Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin. Vos and Howie is currently leading the championship and a third consecutive victory will consolidate their position at the top of the log, while Taylor and Birkin last year came desperately close to winning the race and would dearly like to rectify matters this year.
De Vos commended the hard work of SANORA partners Mascom, Botswana Tourism Organisation, Puma and the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa, the official organisers of the event.
"We look forward to an exciting and challenging event. The new status of the event will also be beneficial to Botswana, our partners and the warm-hearted people of this beautiful country. They are true hosts and always ensure the race is a true feast for spectators."
Says Botswana Tourism Organisation CEO Myra Sekgororoane: "The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has partnered with Toyota and the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa over the years to see through the successful implementation and running of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race.
"With the race being chosen to be part of the new Dakar Challenge BTO sees this as wonderful news for Botswana as it supports our vision of diversifying Botswana's tourism offerings away from our much loved wilderness tourism product. The event gives us the opportunity to promote Botswana as a tourism destination of choice, not only for the aforementioned wonders of our land, but to enhance sports tourism opportunities in our city, Gaborone. This initiative is proving to be a great success."
Under the watchful eye of lead organiser Alan Reid and his team of volunteers from the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa, the race organisers has selected a new route which offers a combination of challenging technical sections and faster open racing sections.
"The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race and our club go back 39 years to the very formation of the club; so we are always proud to bring the race to the Botswana public every year. The off road championship has been a closely fought affair this year and we expect it to be no different in the Desert Race," said Reid.
The race headquarters for this year's event will again be based in Kumakwane, outside Gaborone. Changes have been made to the layout of the designated service park to allow for even better spectator viewing of the start and finish lines and greater ease of access to the park for spectators, competitors and service staff.
Commenting on Mascom's sponsorship of the race Dzene Makhwade-Seboni, Mascom's
Chief Marketing Officer, said the telecoms company is proud to once again be a sponsor of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race. "The race is the premier event on the off-road racing calendar in Africa and we applaud the organisational collaboration spearheaded by the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa working closely with the Botswana Tourism Organisation, other government departments and local authorities to make this a well-run event."
The 2012 Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race will officially launch with a parade through Gaborone on Thursday 21 June, while the main race will commence on Friday 22 June and continue to Sunday 24 June.
More information for spectators and competitors will be available on www.toyota.co.za, www.toyotadesertrace.co.za.
Toyota Motorsport Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners, Toyota Motorsport enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Castrol, Innovation Group, NGK, Imperial Group, SKF, Ferodo, Spanjaard, Edgecam and Donaldson.