It was a clean sweep for Toyota at the 2018 Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race, held over the weekend of 22-24 June, in the area around the Botswana mining town of Jwaneng. Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy took the overall honours for the second year running, with two more Toyota crews rounding out the overall podium.
“It was a vintage year for us in the desert,” said an overjoyed Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the race finished on Sunday, 24 June. “Giniel and Dennis delivered the win, and we are extremely proud of the results achieved by some of our privateer crews.”
The race started as expected for the two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux crews, when De Villiers/Murphy set the fastest time during Friday’s qualifying race over 40 km. They were evenly matched by Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer, driving a Century Racing CR5 Class FIA buggy, but because De Villiers was the first driver to set the time of 28:40, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver was awarded the win – and given the task of opening the route on the first racing loop.
Teammates Henk Lategan and Barry White, in an identical Toyota Hilux, set the next-fastest time, some 22 seconds behind De Villiers/Murphy and Baragwanath/Cremer.
Once the flag dropped for the start of the grueling 1000 km-long race, it was up to De Villiers/Murphy to find route through the dense Kalahari bush. The pair set about their task with the expected precision, but even so it was Lategan/White who set the early pace, comfortably leading the race throughout the first of the two racing days.
Behind the leading Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew, a ding-dong battle raged that saw De Villiers/Murphy drop back as they struggled to find their way. At the same time Malalane Toyota’s Johan and Werner Horn set a blistering pace in their Class T Toyota Hilux, leading the race overall mid-way through Saturday’s two race loops.
In the end, however, it was Lategan/White who triumphed on the opening day, after the Horns dropped back due to prop shaft problems in the second loop. With more defined tracks to follow, De Villiers/Murphy managed to consolidate their position, finishing in second place overall on the day.
Then came Sunday, and two more race loops of roughly 240 km each. Lategan/White now had to open the route, but even so, they set a fast pace from the get-go, holding on to their lead into the final race loop.
“Unfortunately, we suffered a clutch problem when we pulled away from a road crossing just after starting the second loop on Sunday,” explained Lategan after the race. “I went to change from first gear into second, and suddenly there was no drive to the wheels. We had no choice but to retire the normally ultra-reliable Hilux.”
It was a devastating blow for the young driver, who has shown great pace since joining the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team at the start of the 2018 season. Even so, he leaves Botswana having score meaningful points for his win in Saturday’s race.
Lategan’s demise promoted De Villiers/Murphy to the top spot – a position they never relinquished. The pair brought their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux home in a total time of 11 hours, 15 minutes after covering 1,000 km of race distance, making it two wins from two starts after rejoining the SACCS in 2017.
In Class T the Horn brothers had an eventful race but managed to secure the top spot in their class. More than that, they brought their Malalane Toyota Hilux home in second place overall. Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnit drove an excellent race to finish third in the overall standings, and second in Class T.
Class S saw a 4×4 Mega World’s Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo bring their Toyota Hilux home in the top spot, with arch rivals and fellow Toyota Hilux campaigners, Jannie Visser and Chris Visser Junior, taking second place.
Thanks to the performance of all the privateer teams, together with the win of De Villiers/Murphy, Toyota also won the manufacturers award for the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race.
The Desert Race was also the third Road to Dakar event for 2018. This race-within-a-race offers the winning crew a free entry to the Dakar Rally, valued at more than R400,000. This year five crews entered the Road to Dakar, with Red-Lined Motorsport’s Terence Marsh and co-driver Riaan Greyling taking the honours in their Nissan Navara.
Next up for the SACCS is Round 4, which will take place in the area around Bronkhorstspruit in Gauteng, over the first weekend in August 2018.