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Rush hour

Isaac Pheko

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Toyota favourites to win Source:The Midweek Sun

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.

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Well-endowed Galaxy

Isaac Pheko

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FIRE POWER: Galaxy await Rollers

It is only the third week of the 2018/19 BTC Premiership and things are already heating up. Leading the charge is a marauding Jwaneng Galaxy who have already thrown a heavy-handed gauntlet at their rivals after recording a highly impressive 10 goals in just two games.

Galaxy’s intention has been made clear this season after leaving their first two opponents with bloody noses and tails tucked between their legs. The former Mascom Top 8 champions are in a relentless war path with the premier league title on their radar. This weekend, Galaxy host bitter rivals Township Rollers in Jwaneng in what is expected to be a football grudge match. Rollers have been a prickly thorn in Galaxy’s quest to claim the premiership silverware for the past two seasons.

This means the weekend fixture will be the most compelling of the new season. However, Galaxy seem to be packing more heat coming into the Saturday fixture having annihilated both Prisons XI (5-0) and Security Systems (5-0). Galaxy are currently occupying first position alongside second place Sharps Shooting Stars at six points apeice. The game against Popa this weekend will be a litmus test for Galaxy. If the Debswana backed side beats the reigning champions they will establish themselves as potential contenders for the 2018/19 title honours. On the flipside, a loss against Rollers will only mean the first two games were short of a bluff.

Pound for pound Mapalastina have the best squad in the domestic league but a new look Galaxy are well endowed in their own right. In an interview this week, Galaxy spokesperson Tankiso Morake said they played Rollers three times last season and all the games ended in a draw. “Remember we played Rollers in the Mascom Top 8 in Lobatse,” an up-beat Morake said. Morake further said they expected their new coach to receive his permits and start manning the bench when they play Rollers this weekend. “Our supporters have told us that they expected nothing less than league honours this season.” Morake attributes the positive result to a great pre-season.

“You will remember that there was a fake list in the media indicating that we have parted ways with most of our players. You can see that the likes of Ayanda Molefe and Isaac Paeye are still part of the team. There is a lot of competition in our team because we mostly have young players in the team including Lebogang Ditsile who played at Highlands Park in South Africa.” Furthermore, Morake conceded that Rollers are a strong team but argued that they will win the games from the technical bench. “You will remember that we started the last season back tracking but this time things are different.”

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Bridge team fails to impress

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The local team comprised of under 16, under 21 and under 26 categories. In an interview this week, BBF spokesperson Mbakiso Malilo did not mince his words when he described the team’s performance as terrible with all the three teams failing to qualify for the quarter finals.

“Making it to the quarter finals was our target following a good showing in the online championship by our junior team. I believe we can work on improving the playing standard for kids (under 16) as they still stand a chance to compete in the under 21 and under 26 categories for future championships,” he said.

However, Malilo explained that the local youth team gained a lot of experience as the played against more advanced rivals. Quizzed on challenges they faced with a predominantly youthful team, Malilo said: “the trip was too long and for most of the players this was their first experienced of travelling such a great distance. The jet lag ended up affecting the team’s performance as they showed signs of fatigue.” Malilo said their objective was to train young players and give them exposure to the game early on.

“We managed to network with bridge power houses like the Netherlands. Official from the European country expressed interest in training our kids through bridge clinics and enhancing the standard of play and bidding.” Malilo said they selected the junior team that travelled to China through local tournament that was held in Gaborone earlier this year. The tournament was attend by mostly tertiary school students and out of school youth in the junior and youngsters’ category. For the under 16 category we invited student from secondary schools.

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