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It’s desert race weekend

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Batswana’s fascination with speed will be yet again be quenched this weekend when the 2016 Toyota 1000km Desert Race revs back into the diamond-mining town of Jwaneng.

The 35th edition of the biggest motorsport event on the continent starts from Thursday until Sunday and a record number of spectators is expected for an even bigger racing odyssey in 2016. This year, the usual suspects in the   production car category will yet again include Toyota, Ford and VW. There will also be the intensely competitive and thrilling special vehicle category.

Something even more special this year is that most of the categories, including the motorbikes and the quads, have all attracted competition from the wider Southern African region and abroad, unlike in the previous years where the dominating participants only came from South Africa and Botswana. The race organisers, Southern Africa National Off Road Association (SANORA), expressed pride in seeing the event commonly called ‘Mantshwabise’ bring the entire country to a virtual standstill. 

SANORA revealed that his year the race would be celebrating its 25th anniversary under the Toyota banner, and that it forms round three of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, as well as rounds of the South African Cross Country Motorcycle and Quad Racing championship.  Moreover, the Botswana national racing series are expected to compete on the same stage.

According to SANORA, the reigning champions Toyota will be guarding a record that has not been beaten in the Production Vehicle category since 2011. “Toyota Gazzo racing SA crews Anthony Taylor /Dennis Murphy and reigning champions Leeroy Poulter/Dennis Murphy (who finished fifth at the 2016 Dakar Rally) have been dominant in their Toyota Hilux models in recent seasons.”

However, SANORA stated further that the indomitable Toyota will this time face tough competition from three quality teams from overseas in the FIA class. Speaking in an interview this week, Botswana Motorsport (BMS) president Simon Modisaeman said preparations for the race are going well on their part. “We expect more spectators and new challenges from racing teams from as far as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States,” Modisaeman said.

Nevertheless, Modisaeman said there will also be stiff competition in the both the quad and motorbike categories after over 200 riders have registered compared to only 70 in the last edition of the race. “We have also collaborated with SANORA to bring more marshals to the race. We expect between 80 and 100 marshals so that we avoid unfortunate situations from last year.”

However, Modisaeman said they could not confirm whether the race will be a Dakar Rally qualifier or not, adding that SANORA is better-placed to respond. Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) said they expected spectators from both neighbouring countries and abroad. “This is the biggest off road race in Africa, with a following of over 120 000 spectators,” the BTO   stated.

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Local boxers ready for regional tourney

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CONFIDENT: Newly unveiled LOC is confident that the regional tourney will be a success

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.

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Branch does it again

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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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