|Championship hopefuls in the Special Vehicle category will be eyeing the 60 points up for grabs over the two heats with greedy eyes on the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the South African Cross Country Series championship (SACCS), from June 23 to 25.
With the season reaching the halfway stage 60 points from the only marathon event on the SACCS calendar would be a windfall for crews with title aspirations. The race offers the opportunity to put a fair bit of daylight between championship hopefuls and the opposition, and at the same time laggards are afforded the chance of making up wads of lost ground.
After two rounds of the SACCS championship no one among the top crews has yet managed to dominate in terms of points earned thus far. That sets the scene for two highly interesting races with high stakes.
By virtue of past championship performances and Desert Race pedigree it is difficult to ignore claims by multiple South African champions not to be installed as race favourites. Hutchison and Stassen (King Price Extreme BAT Viper) have been there, done that and earned the tee shirt when it comes to the Desert Race.
And experience plays a major role in a race that invariably provides a sting in the tail. You have to know what is needed to win the Desert Race and Hutchison and Stassen tick all the boxes.
While Hutchison and Stassen predictably top this year’s overall and Class A championships they have been kept honest by Stefan van Pletzen, back with Jaco Pieterse in the Live Lesotho Chenowth, and the husband and wife pairing of Marius and Jolinda Fourie in the PHB BAT. Two podiums represent the best start to the season for the Fouries in a couple of seasons, and they will be more than happy to keep the momentum going.
The father/daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne, in the 4×4 Mega World Porter, have made a dodgy start to their season. They appear to have been out of sorts, but the Desert Race is the kind of event that is made for them when steady progress is often more effective than sheer pace out the starting blocks.
Putting their first points on the board on the Battlefields 400 will have done rookie driver Schalk Burger and South African rally champion Elvéne Coetzee, in the King Price Extreme Porter, a power of good and they will be looking for more of the same. Naeem Moosajee/Rayhaan Bodhanya and Talha and Taahir Moosajee, from the Tyre Rack squad, will sit this race out because of Ramadan.
Kobus/Marinda Fourie (BAT) will be aiming at a return to form and Keith Makenete/Ferdie Pieterse (BAT) and Ntaote Bereng/Makara Matekane (Aceco) will be eyeing improved results. But there are two other crews the Special Vehicle brigade will need to keep in their sights.
Botswana based Keith du Toit and Robbie Coetzee (White Star Racing BAT) have a good record on the Desert Race, while Thomson and Zermatten will be competing in their second event of the season in the Class A ranks and could put a few noses out of joint.
In Class P the crew to beat are John Telford and Victor Ntsekhe (Calcamite Hellcat) who won both the Lichtenburg 400 and Battlefields 400. That has given Telford/Ntsekhe an early championship lead over Lesotho based driver Werner Kennedy and Thinus Venter (Live Lesotho Aceco), and evergreen Nic Goslar and Andrew Massey in the SA Clinics Zarco.
Shaun van Rooyen and Gene Rogers will be out in the VCR Racing CRT along with Julio Ferreira and Jonathan Meyer in a Sandmaster. Ferreira/Meyer are Botswana based and unknown quantities but will have some home ground advantage.
Whether in the office or at home enthusiasts who want to follow the fortunes of competitors can do so by downloading the RallySafe free app for iOS or Android systems. The user friendly app uses maps, split times and results to follow the race as it unfolds.
Jwaneng, home of the world’s largest diamond mine, again hosts the event with race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service park located at the Jwaneng Sport Club and adjacent showground. Public access to these areas will be restricted.
The qualifying race on June 23 starts at 13:00 and the race at 08:15 on June 24 and 25. Access to spectator areas on all three days is free of charge.