23rd June 2017
RACERS: Duster vs. Hilux Source:The Midweek Sun


By Isaac Pheko -

Since 2015 the Toyota Gazoo team has had an iron grip on the marathon Toyota 1000km Desert Race. Having blown away most of their competition including entries from Ford and Nissan, many will expect the Toyota Gazoo team to run away with the title when the 2017 edition of the 1000 km Desert Race commences in Jwaneng mining town this weekend. However, Toyota will have their hands full in the elite FIA class when they go head to head with a new entry in the form of the Elf Renault Duster team.

With Toyota rivals Nissan competing in another off Road event in China, it will be the Elf Duster that will be keeping the Toyota’s in check. However, the dominant Toyota Gazoo team will bring two entries in the FIA class with pilots like South African champions Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie and Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy vying for victory once again.

Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson will pilot the fire breathing Renault. However, it is the Toyota team that will be coming with a massive advantage given their experience in the Desert Race. Local motorsport enthusiasts will also be treated to some celebrity, as they will have a chance to see former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers in action. De Villiers is best known for winning the 2009 Dakar Rally with team VW.

The Desert Race, which is the third event of the South African Cross Country series starts with a qualifying race on Friday and concludes on Sunday. Double points will be up for grabs in the weekend marathon race scheduled for Jwaneng and surrounding areas. Class T, for vehicles over four litres and with solid axle rear suspension, is another kettle of fish and this is where most of the action will unfold.

The category has had two different winners on the first two events and only six points separate the first three crews. Meanwhile Class S for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension will also feature fast and furious action. Former South African champion Jannie Visser, with son Chris doing the co-driving in a Toyota Hilux, will revel in the conditions and will be hard to beat.

The qualifying race will start at 13:00 on June 23 and the race at 08:15 on June 24 and 25. Public access to spectator points is free of charge with enthusiasts able to follow the race via the RallySafe app. RallySafe is downloaded free of charge and is compatible with iOS and Android operating systems. The app is user friendly and provides maps, split times and results.

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