It was a tough and challenging day in the Botswana desert for the teams in the Special Vehicle and Side by Side categories of the Toyota Desert Race (TDR 1000), round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that takes place this weekend in Selebi-Phikwe. The 60 kilometre Qualifying Race on the first of the three day marathon race proved to be a test for man and machine with more than 800 kilometres still on the program for the rest of the weekend.
The Qualifying Race determines the starting order for Saturday and as teams in the Special and Production Vehicle categories as well as the Side x Side National Championship (SxS) start according to their overall finishing positions, a good starting position is crucial. The fact that double points are up for grabs for teams who manage to complete the racing sections on all three days in Botswana, adds to the pressure.
As predicted, it was the winner of the first two rounds of the SACCS, Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets (LT Earthmovers BAT) who continued their winning streak by posting the fastest time in the Special Vehicle category and in Class A.
“It was difficult and tight with no room for error. If you blink, you’re out,” Trethewey stated back in the pits at the Sam Sono stadium in Selebi-Phikwe. Other than a problem with a fan that came loose, they had a clean run.
They were just less than a minute and a half quicker than the young Moosajee brothers, Taahir and Talha (Dunlop Stryker) who are competing in the TDR 1000 for the first time. An unknown adventure still awaits the youngsters who will have some input from their racing family, and they will quickly get to grips with what the desert throws at them. Behind them the Voigts brothers, Ralph and Andre (Voigts Group BAT) started their TDR 1000 successful by posting the third fastest time in Class A and with the first podium result on the scoreboard, they will aim for more.
The TDR 1000 is nothing new to Clint Gibson who teamed up with Alaric Smith in the Dirt Sport Stryker. They were fourth fastest after the Qualifying Race and only 19 seconds faster than John Thomson/Clint McNamara (Zarco). It was certainly a more positive start for Thomson who could only manage to finish the third and final day last year when he competed with Zermatten.
A mere seven seconds separated the team from Keith du Toit/Xander Mare (White Star Racing BAT) while they were again only 14 seconds faster than John Telford/Victor Ntsekhe (Calcamite BAT) who beached their vehicle on a tree about halfway into the race costing them valuable time. They also experienced GPS problems to add to their woes. The TDR 1000 behind the steering wheel of the Total Agri Porter is an all new experience for Sandra Labuscagne-Jonck who was in the navigator seat last year when she and her father won this event. Partnered by husband, Jaco, the pair were a mere nine seconds slower than Telford/Ntsekhe and enjoyed the route.
Zaheer and nephew Lais Bodhanya (Jimco) will be bringing up the rear in Class A.
Veteran racer, Nic Goslar and Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) were the fastest in Class P with the 2018 class winner, Julio Ferreira, now with Johan Basson (Aceco) reading the notes, second. Botswana’s Lepsy Mosope and Stewart van Graan (Zarco) rounded off the Class P podium.
There is an extra challenge for teams competing in the SxS National Championship as they must complete the full race distance each day. All the teams are competing with Can-Am Maverick SxS vehicles and it was the Team Moto-Netix brothers, Werner and Leon Mostert, who drew first blood posting the fastest time after the Qualifying Race. They beat Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit, who are competing for the first time this season in the SACCS, by 27 seconds and an exciting battle can be expected at the front. Wickus Haasbroek, a paraplegic and Jurgens Smith rounded off the SxS podium and were only 1 minute 10 seconds slower than Van Breda/Du Toit.
They were followed home by Christo Rose/Dirk Swart and UK driver, Michael Tilney and Ryan Peinke who lost time when they wrong slotted. Dean Bradbury/Rikus Hattingh finished just behind them while Markus Labuschagne/Neil Putter could not finish the qualifier.
On Saturday the race will get underway at 8:15 when the leading vehicle will leave the Sam Sono stadium on the 440 kilometre route. There are various spectator points along the route with Race Headquarters, the Start/Finish as well as the Designated Service Point (DSP) at the soccer stadium.
Enthusiasts can follow the TDR 1000 on the RallySafe App that can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS devices. Information includes during the course of each day as well as maps and relevant information.