Shattered windshields and missing bodywork from T1+ Hilux and Rangers were a testament to the gruelling TGRSA Desert Race 1000. Here is what unfolded in and around the brutal Botswana biome around Jwaneng.
Rally Africa. This past weekend played host to not one but two significant off-roading events for our continent. First was the WRC event which took place in the vast planes of Kenya.
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The second of which was slightly closer to home, using the soft sands of Jwaneng, Botswana as a base for operations. Toyota Gazoo Racing was contending both but it seemed that the South African Rally Raid Championship event in our neighbouring country was the more anticipated of the two.
The last time the SARRC contended the rally was in 2018 and Toyota boasts a strong record at the event historically. Spanning two days of just under 500 km each, the conditions proved to be the most brutal of the calendar.
After winning the first two races of the season in Malelane, Mpumalanga and Sugarbelt in Kwa-Zulu Natal, misfortune has the GR badged Hilux T1+ only manage the final podium step after the NWM Ford Rangers earned their first win of the season.
On pace, the qualifying loop proved that both the Hilux and Ranger were on par as Guy Botterill clinched the honours of opening the course. A damaged driveshaft and punctures prevented him from holding the lead and that proved to be a recurring theme for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team throughout the warm winter weekend.
Each spectator point that all T1+ Dakar-ready bakkies passed through seemed to have them exchange more bodywork for more organic branches and bushes.
Spectator points were packed with locals. The Desert Race is the best-attended event in the region and arguably the continent with hundreds of thousands of spectators getting in on the weekend-long action. So big an event that Botswana’s president attends in the ceremonial start.
Toyota Gazoo Racing may have enjoyed a convincing 1-2-3 victory in Kenya, but it was here, in Botswana, where the African rally won. The winning NWM Ford Ranger T1+ will be flying the local flag high at Dakar in early 2024 where it will continue to battle with Toyota’s locally built reigning champion; the Hilux.