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 hockey body to incur massive financial loss post Covid-19
Botswana Hockey Association (BHA) President Unaswi Matebu has confessed that her Association will suffer major financial losses post the Covid 19 pandemic that has left the sport fraternity at a standstill.
Matebu recently told this publication that the current situation does not only have tremendous effects on their schedule, but also there will be financial implications more especially that the association does not have full time sponsors.
“We had to cancel most of our calendar activities such as tournaments, national team trainings, Board meetings, and club activities since mid-March this year, all of which have cost us money to prepare for,” Matebu remarked in an interview.
Additionally she said the planning phase for their 5-year Development Plan which was supposed to be launched in June will have to be postponed. Also there are national competitions that were postponed till further notice despite them having already set up teams and having already started preparing.
“Our Indoor Hockey Senior National teams had already started preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations – a World Cup qualifier – that was supposed to be held in June, 2020, in South Africa. Our Field Hockey Senior National teams had already begun preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that were supposed to be held in August, 2020 in Zimbabwe,” she added.
Moreover, it was going to be an excessively detailed and decorated year for local hockey governing body, with the Youth National teams having already began preparations for the Africa Youth Championships that were billed for September, 2020, in Ghana.
“Player conditioning has obviously been affected because athletes are currently not training as planned and what we had achieved so far might go to waste. We are only hoping that the Continental and World Hockey governing bodies will give us enough time to prepare for these competitions post the pandemic.”
BFA will not declare the season null and void – yet
Amidst wide spreading fears that Botswana’s top flight league might be canceled and considered null and void because of the crippling Covid-19 pandemic, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) has yet to make a determination on the matter and has in fact ruled out scrapping off the season altogether.
Local football observers and pundits alike have already started talking of the possibilities after similar considerations of nullifying their seasons were made in the leagues of other countries especially in Europe. No football activity has taken place in the country since social distancing measures were imposed to avoid the spread of the corona virus.
Local football pundit Fabian Zulu is one of those who believe there is a likelihood the football season will be nullified. “If the current situation persists, then there is a high possibility of declaring the league null and void. This situation wasn’t planned, no one knew that by now we would be facing this kind of situation; so the possibility is very high.
However, in an interview this week, BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane said the association has not considered canceling and nullifying the season as an option yet, adding that “currently we are observing a period of extreme social distancing, the ministry of health and wellness will obviously give advice on the possibility of getting back to football.”
Consequently the BFA still awaits the Ministry to declare that the risks of spreading the virus are reduced and come up with a contingency plan. “If the ministry says there is a reduced health risk we will play out the season; if they advise against it we will then see what steps to take. The health of our players is more important and we will be guided by the responsive authorities,” Mpatane remarked.
However, suspension or cancellation of the leagues across the world seems inevitable even as some European leagues, more specifically the English Premier League, are now contemplating a behind-closed-doors campaign to finish off the remaining matches.