JWANENG, BOTSWANA – Red-Lined Motorsport’s Terence Marsh, partnered for the 2018 Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race by experienced co-driver, Riaan Greyling, came away from the grueling race not only as the second-placed crew in Class FIA – but also as the winner of the 2018 Road to Dakar. This means that Marsh receives a free entry to the world’s toughest automotive event, valued at 28,000 euros, which was again sponsored in Botswana by Toyota SA Motors.
Marsh/Greyling was one of five crews to enter the Road to Dakar at this year’s Desert Race, and the pair drove an immaculate race to claim the sought-after price in their BF Goodrich-supported Nissan Navara. This race-within-a-race saw a lot of drama, before the dust finally settled over the southern-Botswana town of Jwaneng, which has played host to the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race for the last five years.
The initial lead in the Road to Dakar went to the Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara crew of Shameer Variawa and co-driver Zaheer Bodhanya. This highly experienced pairing took their brand-new Nissan Navara out on its maiden race, and quickly set a blistering pace. Variawa is a former South African national champion and has won the Desert Race three times on the trot, so plenty of expectation from the crew, despite tackling their first local race in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
“We started on a charge, setting the fifth-fastest time during the short qualifying race,” said Variawa after Friday’s opening loop of just 48 kilometers, used to determine the starting positions for the main race. “The car felt good, and even though we are new to the four-wheel-drive category, we quickly settled into a comfortable rhythm.”
But disaster struck when their four-day-old Nissan Navara caught alight, just 6km from the end of the first racing loop on Saturday. The crew managed to stop the car and escape from the burning cockpit, only to watch their new car go up in flames – together with their hopes and dreams of winning the Road to Dakar for 2018.
This meant that teammates Marsh/Greyling took over the lead in the Road to Dakar, the third such event for 2018. The pair held on to this lead, despite taking on the Desert Race on production tyres – the BF Goodrich KM3 rubber they were testing during Africa’s longest and toughest automotive race.
“We never got out of the car,” said an elated Marsh after crossing the finish line as the second-fastest Class FIA car in the race. “The tyres blew us away, but more than that, we are elated at winning the 2018 Road to Dakar.”
For 2018 the Road to Dakar consists of six events, hosted at six tough International races. The first Road to Dakar for the year took place during the Sanora Rally, but only motorcycles were eligible during this event. The Marzouga Rally in Morocco was next, where both cars and bikes were eligible. The Desert Race in Botswana – the third event on the Road to Dakar calendar for 2018 with only cars eligible to enter.
Next up is the Baja Aragon in Spain, where only cars are eligible for entry; with the Indian Baja and Desafio Inca (Peru) completing the line-up for 2018.