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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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makwala iaaf issue ignored

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President of Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Mooketsi Thari this week revealed that International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe is coming to Botswana for other matters surrounding BAA, not the infamous Isaac Makwala saga that occurred during the 2017 World Championships staged in London.

In fact, BAA has no intention to demand answers or even mention the Makwala issue to the IAAF president. A staunch Thari said the BAA will not even ask for any form of compensation following the Makwala debacle. Thari was addressing members of the press about the on-going preparations ahead of the IAAF president’s arrival in Gaborone this coming Saturday.

Makwala, the world famous local 400m sprinter and the men’s 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist was controversially barred by IAAF from running at the 2018 London World Championships over allegations that he might have contracted the contagious Noro Virus bug.

The nation watched with bleeding hearts as reports flooded across borders that Makwala was ruled out of the world 400m final. Makwala endured further heartache after being pulled out of the 200m heats and later went on a spotlight stealing a solo run in rainy weather.

After all the dust seemed to have settled over the mishap, that is when news surfaced that Coe would come to Botswana in 2018. The announcement compelled many to believe that Coe ‘s visit wouldshed light to Batswana an understanding of what exactly happened in London. However, Thari says for them, that is water under the bridge.

“Many think the IAAF president is coming for the Makwala issue, well, that is not the case, he had long promised that he will visit even before the London controversy,” Thari said. “That issue has been resolved and there is nothing more to it.

We dealt with the matter, even if we were to take it to court that would have happened at a later stage and Makwala would have missed his run,” he said.The BAA president went on to say that they did all they could and actually took pride in that they made history by ensuring that IAAF grants Makwala a special 200m qualification run.

The solo run saw Makwala beat the alleged stomach bug and qualified for the 200m final. Thari explained that instead, they need IAAF’s assistance to help develop athletics in Botswana. As one of the best performing codes in Botswana, Thari said it would come in handy if IAAF helps the local association with funding.

“We will show him a plot that we were long allocated but finding it hard to develop. We also need to reinforce grassroots development,” Thari said.

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GU welcomes Zapata at Rollers

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It would have been an intriguing welcome back to Botswana for Rodolfo Zapata if he were to lead the BTC premiership defending Champions Townships Rollers during their week 10 match against Gaborone United this coming Saturday at the national stadium.

However, Zapata who arrived in Botswana this past Saturday can only watch from the stands, as he is yet to be confirmed as head coach by the Rollers management. Rollers recently confirmed that they are in negotiations with the former Gaborone United coach.The passionate Argentine tactician has already met with the Rollers technical side and the players this week.

As of this past Tuesday, Sun Sports learnt that Zapata is yet to put pen to paper. “We are almost done with our negotiations and still processing his work permits. Only the government processes will determine how long he stays out,” said Rollers spokesperson, Bafana Pheto in an interview.

Pheto revealed that Zapata met the team on Tuesday morning during their training session. However, Zapata, played his cards close to his chest and said he will only comment after he signs a contract with Rollers.“I do not have all the details right now and I hope the Rollers management is working on my permits also,” he said.

Nevertheless, it would still be an emotional game for Zapata when he watches a team he used to coach play against a team he is expected to soon lead.Zapata dumped Gaborone United for a Kenyan side AFC Leopards back in April this year. Zapata had signed a two -year deal with the Kenyan side until about four weeks ago when he decided to leave.

Rollers were quick to show interest on the high profiled coach when their coach, Nikola Kavazovic shockingly decided to abandon the formidable side of Mapalastina early this month.Meanwhile Sun Sports has learnt that there might still be a standoff between GU management and Zapata.

Zapata has told this publication that GU has not paid him his dues yet. Nevertheless, GU is reported to still be nursing an open wound following Zapata’s decision to abandon the then sinking Money Machine.

It is alleged that Zapata has a running contract with GU until 2019 and there were certain procedures he had to follow as per the contract, “We cannot comment anything on the Zapata issue because it may have some legal implications.

We will wait for a time to sit down with Zapata and resolve our pending issues because Zapata has not even contacted us yet,” said GU chairman, Boitumelo Nsunge.

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