The all-new Toyota Gazoo Racing SA 1000 Desert Race, the third round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that takes place over three days and almost a thousand kilometres on 18, 19 and 20 June in the Upington area, has drawn an extremely competitive field in the Production Vehicle Category and the most teams the series has seen this season will make their way to the Northern Cape Province where they will go for gold and hope to bag a healthy amount of points towards their championships.
This event traditionally run in Botswana and the only marathon event on the calendar has been relocated to Upington this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the logistics of cross border travel. This offers teams a new opportunity to test their equipment and themselves over three days and almost a thousand kilometres of harsh conditions and unchartered terrain and a level playing field for all.
The TGRSA 1000 Desert Race will also include the Road to Dakar Challenge offering privateer crews who enter the opportunity to win a free entry to the Dakar Rally. This year the winning team will also receive a cash prize of 8 000 euros to assist as with the necessary funding to compete in the world’s toughest automotive race in either 2022 or 2023.
Combining statistics of the annual marathon event held in Botswana for the past two decades and the fact that two different teams have claimed victory so far this season, makes predicting a winner quite risky.
With the desert race this year sponsored by Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, the team would like nothing better than to be the first winners of their inaugural event. The team will also feature the new petrol-powered 3.5 litre turbo charged V6 engine in a new generation Toyota Hilux racing chassis – it is yet uncertain who will be behind the wheel of this vehicle.
If the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race victory befell either the defending champions, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings or the former double desert race winners, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy, it will be a better result than their 2019 TDR 1000 result when both teams experienced problems in Botswana. Lategan will also be hoping to make up for lost points as he did not compete in the season opener.
Shameer Variawa finished second in Botswana in 2019 and now partnered by navigator Danie Stassen, the TGRSA team would like to get their season off the ground with a good result in the desert. The multiple SA National Rally Champions, Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle will compete together for the first time in the SACCS. Botterill opened the season standing in for Lategan and scored his first points with a podium result while Vacy-Lyle has been in the navigator’s seat for a few cross country kilometres in the past.
The desert-like conditions will be a first for the new FIA Ford Castrol Cross Country Rangers and both teams will be looking to make up for not completing the recent Sugarbelt 400. The winners of the season opener, Lance Woolridge/Elvéne Vonk would like to bring home another victory and together with their team-mates, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer, the two teams can better their standings in the overall and FIA Class championships with a good result.
The winner of the 2019 TDR in Botswana, Chris Visser, has teamed up with Albertus Venter in the Toyota Hilux for this event and would like nothing more than to repeat his performance in the desert. And with the sand from more than 8 000 kilometres of the recent 2021 Dakar Rally not properly dusted off, Brian Baragwanath, now with navigator Leonard Cremer, is looking forward to tackle the desert conditions in South Africa with his new Century Racing CR 6. Their team-mates, Mark Corbett/Rodney Burke have also made a positive start to the season and the two-wheel drive vehicles can cause an upset at Upington.
Team Red-Lined Motorsport will again be all out for more good results. Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne (Red-Lined VK56) have also entered the Road to Dakar Challenge as they plan to compete in this event in January next year while Conrad Rautenbach/Riaan Greyling (VK56) will be looking to build on their recent good result in KwaZulu-Natal.
The desert-like race will be a new experience for Eben Basson who has the experienced Gerhard Schutte next to him in the VK56 with the team aiming to add to their streak of uninterrupted race finishes. It will also be a first desert adventure for Philip Botha/Roelof Janse van Vuren (VK50).
In the FIA Class, many years of experience will count in the favour of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau who have completed hundreds of desert racing kilometres in the past although it will be the first time their new FIA Class Toyota Hilux will get a taste of racing in the challenging sandy conditions.
Like drivers De Villiers, Variawa, Rautenbach and Corbett, Johan van Staden has also completed the Dakar Rally. The TGRSA 1000 Desert Race will, however, be the first desert race for his son, Sean in the navigator seat of the Moto-Netix KEC Racing Renault. Other teams in the FIA Class line-up will include Jason Venter/Jaco van Aardt (4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux); Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Xtreme) and Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit (CR5).
In Class T, the championship leaders and double class winners this season, Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux), will have the target on their backs, but having done many desert racing kilometres, another victory might just be on the cards for the Horn brothers. Dylan Venter/Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux) is the only other Toyota Hilux in Class T and will hope to bring home some silverware.
Five Ford Rangers in the livery of Neil Woolridge Motorsport will be on the start line with the teams aiming for more good points after a general positive start to the season. Malcolm Kock and his son, Frans, are currently second in the Class T championship after two podium results with Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen third after also scoring consistently. The newcomers, Christo Rose/Arno Olivier, have adapted well in the Production Vehicle Category after competing in Class G of the Special Vehicles with their Side-by-Side and are currently fourth in the class.
Bernard Johnston has scored points together with his wife, Minette, at the season opener, but could not finish the Sugarbelt 400 with new navigator, Jan Harm Hugo and the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race will be a new adventure for the team. It will also be a baptism of fire for the Development Team, Baphumza Rubuluza/Fanifani Meyiwa, who scored their first points of the season at the Sugarbelt 400.
Jannie Visser is one of the drivers with the most TDR experience. The farmer from Barberspan has teamed up with his son, Chris, and will compete with a Class S Toyota Hilux as will the local father and son team of Piet and Benjamin Kotzé who will be competing in the SACCS for the first time.
The TGRSA 1000 Desert Race starts on Friday, 18 June with the Pirelli Qualifying Race of approximately 130 kilometres that includes a mini dune section. The results will determine the starting order for Saturday when teams will take on a 200 kilometre loop at 08:00. Upon completing the loop once, there will be a mandatory 30-minute service stop before they tackle the loop again.
The combined results of Friday and Saturday will determine the starting order for the final day with a new 200km loop awaiting teams. This loop will again include a mini dune section, dry riverbeds and hard-pack and a compulsory 30-minute de-control before they do the loop again.
All the racing action will start and finish at the Upington Expo Showgrounds where the headquarters and Designated Service Park (DSP) will be situated. No spectators will be allowed at the showgrounds as per the current COVID-19 regulations. Enthusiasts can follow the action on the RallySafe App on iOS and Android devices as well as on Telegram and social media.
Click here to download the 2021 Entry list
Resource: SACCS (South African Cross Country Series)