It’s races week for this year’s edition of the 1000km Toyota Desert Race(TDR). For motorsport aficionados, casual racing fans and camping enthusiasts it basically means braving the frosty June winter and making the annual sojourn to Jwaneng mining town in the South Western part of the country this weekend.
Once in Jwaneng, the TDR will reward both local and international spectators with a thrilling spectacle as high-octane racing machines will be literally kicking up dust and flying by mere four metres away from the zealous crowd. For spectators the thrill of being so near the action is part of the adrenalin rush and the mystique that come with the TDR.
The event, which draws crowds of up to 200 000 to Jwaneng and surrounding villages, starts with a prologue on Friday before the two stages on Saturday and Sunday where both man and machine are expected to endure Botswana’s torrid and unforgiving terrain. As usual there will be three classes including the FIA production class, which features the fastest and most powerful vehicles. There is the Special Vehicle category popularly known as Sand Master and the popular bike category (featuring two wheelers and quads).
However, it is not only the racing and the drama that makes the TDR popular, local spectators throng Jwaneng for the spectacle; the splendour, the colour, the petrol fumes and the gloriousV8 exhaust sound that reverberates throughout the desert terrain. Besides being the single biggest sporting event hosted in Botswana, there is simply nothing like the TDR. The marathon race forms part of the popular South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) championship, which features six rounds in different parts of the neighbouring country.
The TDR is the third round of the SACCS and the jewel in the crown of the popular championship. This race comes with double points towards the championship series and every driver and riders find both team and personal glory in winning the event. Since 2011, the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) has dominated the event.
Toyota South Africa are the event sponsors and their domination comes as no surprise. The TGR are part of Toyota’s world class racing program that includes campaigns in the 10 000km Dakar Rally and the popular World Endurance Championship (WEC) that includes the Leman 24-hour race. On paper Toyota have no challengers in the race their closest rivals include the Elf Renault Duster Team and new entrants, Nissan Red-Lined team. Once again are expected to win the race in dominant fashion.
A win at the TDR in all categories almost guarantees a sport in the 2019 Dakar Rally scheduled for Peru. Botswana’s best hopes will be pinned on locally brewed rider Ross Branch. The multiple TDR two-wheeler bike rider has plans to compete in the 2019 Dakar Rally and winning on Sunday will give him and his KTM team a major boost in the arm towards their Dakar campaign.
This year will be the fourth time the TDR is hosted in Jwaneng. The race comes with major economic benefits to the Jwaneng community in terms of retail, hospitality and petroleum.
Local boxers ready for regional tourney
Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) this past Tuesday officially unveiled a Local Organising Committee (LOC) that has been tasked with preparing for the upcoming Zone 4 championships that are to be held in Botswana.
The team is headed by celebrated boxing legend France Mabiletsa and is expected to host more than seven countries that are expected to descend in Botswana in the next two weeks. Officiating at the event, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) Vice Chairperson Tsoseletso Magang said that BoBA officials should refrain from interfering with the task given to the LOC. She noted that many sporting codes often give the LOC the responsibility of delivering an event only for the code members to bully themselves into the affairs of the LOC and disrupts the preparations.
Magang warned that there is little time left before the tournament, and with that, the LOC will need all the support to ensure they deliver a successful event. She noted that hosting the regional tournament gave Botswana an upper hand of fielding more athletes that will have an opportunity to qualify for the Africa Championships scheduled for later this year.
For his part, Mabiletsa noted that they have already hit the ground running and confident that the event will be a success. The competition will be hosted in Botho College and they are in talks with Ave Maria to accommodate athletes. “Life will be made much easier for athletes if they are accommodated at Ave Maria because it is closer to the competition venue,” he said.
He explained that the zone is made up of 12 countries of Lesotho, Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe among others. However as of this past Tuesday, only seven had confirmed participation and they expect to finalize the logistics by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, a formidable national boxing team of eight men captained by Mmusie Tswiiige (60kg) and three ladies led by Lethabo Modukanele (48kg) will represent the country at the regional tournament.
According to the Head coach Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza, the team has been on camp for the past three weeks. In his opinion, the team is ready to compete. “Generally, they are not bad, we need to work on a few things such as power and speed on some boxers, the defence department is also not bad,” he said.
Luza noted that Botswana has always established herself as a powerhouse and there is no doubt that majority, if not all team Botswana members will win a medal during competition time. He explained that the competition was one of the many leading to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will give local boxers an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.
Branch does it again
Local motorcycle racing sensation Ross Branch has continued his stellar form after securing overall second position in the internationally renowned Merzouga Rally. The race came to a conclusion this past weekend and Branch has proven his mettle amongst some of the best rally motorcyclists in the world.
The podium finish is expected to take the Dakar Rally racer to even greater heights in the hugely competitive and expensive sport. It has been barely two months since the talented local rider emerged as a top class racer at the Dakar Rally where he finished 13 and walked away with the fastest rookie of the 10 000 km odyssey.
At Merzouga, things seemed a little better for the rider as the terrain offer sand and rock as opposed to the treacherous dunes in Dakar. Branch who was using a different navigation system in Morocco showed his pace after winning the fourth stage of the race last week Thursday.
Prior to his podium finish Branch said Merzouga was only his second rally and he was willing to learn from some of the top riders in the sport. The KTM 450cc rider said he was now setting his sights on other major races including the 2020 Dakar Rally that has been confirmed for Saudi Arabia.
Since returning from the Dakar, Ross has stayed busy and competed at the cross-country championship in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, where he finished fourth. The local rider is expected to compete at the upcoming 1000 km Toyota Desert Race, an event he has won more than seven times.
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