In a major coup for the Motorsport South Africa Off Road Racing Commission, the FIA this week confirmed South Africa’s inclusion in a championship that includes the Pharaohs Rally, the UAE Desert Challenge and events in Argentina, Tunisia, Iberia, Morocco and the Rallye de Orient in Turkey. The South African event, however, is subject to a “favourable report” from a team of FIA observers on the Toyota Dealer 1000 candidate event in Mpumalanga from October 13 to 15.
A date for the South African event, however, has yet to be finalised. Other events on the FIA calendar have the inside track on dates, but it would appear the South African race will take place in July or August next year.
“We have the amber light and are now waiting for the green light from the FIA,” said MSA Off Road Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel. “The latest development is a huge boost for off road racing and motorsport in this country, and we are now working flat out to ensure that next month’s candidate event, organised by the South African Motorsport Club (SAM), satisfies all the FIA’s requirements.”
Swanepoel added the candidate event had the blessing of the Department of Sport and Recreation as well as South African Off Road Championship partners in title sponsor Absa, Ford, Nissan and Toyota. The event also has the support of the Toyota Dealer Council, but upgrading the Toyota Dealer 400 from a two-day 400 kilometre race to a three-day 1000 kilometre event required a concerted effort to raise the substantial additional funds required for the task.
“We have had a reasonably successful response from the private sector, but have had a disappointing response from South African Airways, the government funded airline,” said Swanepoel. “This has meant we have not been able to offer assistance to international teams to compete in next month’s event.
“The lack of response from SAA is all the more regrettable in that the only world championship event staged in South Africa this year was the motocross Grand Prix at Sun City. Over the years we have lost Formula One, MotoGP, the World Superbike Championship and events like German Touring Cars and the Porsche World Cup.
“Bringing to FIA Cross Country World Cup to this country will boost South Africa’s image internationally, and will have huge financial spin-offs in terms of foreign exchange.”
Chief organiser Willie du Plessis said that since the Toyota Dealer 400’s elevation to candidate event status, a team of route plotters had unearthed “superb and virgin racing territory” in Mpumalanga. The route would not only be a test of man and machinery, but would take competitors through some of the most picturesque scenery South Africa has to offer.
Du Plessis added the route for the Toyota Dealer 1000 would include Lydenburg, which will house race headquarters and the designated service point, Sabie, Dullstroom, Machadadorp, Burgersfort and Orighstad. Day one will cover approximately 200 kilometres, with competitors covering around 400 kilometres on days two and three.
“The terrain varies from tight and fast forest roads to mountain tracks and wide open agricultural land,” du Plessis said. “It has everything you could want for an event of this nature, and the scenery throughout is breathtaking.”
“South Africa desperately needs the worldwide focus, exposure and economic benefits that a round of the FIA Cross Country World Cup would generate,” said Swanepoel. “We have the professional organisational skills, a vast army of motorsport enthusiasts of all races and a country of unequalled beauty.
“We need to take advantage of all those attributes, and we need to get more branches of motorsport hosting world championship events.”