With the famous ‘Desert Race’ moving back to its long-time home in Botswana 2023, competitors hoping to capitalise on the Dakar ‘dream shot’ will have to make the most of the challenging terrain that marks this event. Officially known as the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race, or TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race for short, the third round of the 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) offers arguably the biggest single prize of the year: Free entry to the Dakar Rally.
The TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race has consistently been the longest and toughest motorsport event on the African continent, and as such offers the type of test that is in line with the grueling Dakar Rally itself. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA are again aligning with the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Dakar Rally, to offer Dakar hopefuls the opportunity to win a free entry to the race.
As before, the Road to Dakar, as this initiative is known, is open to all privateers who haven’t previously taken part in the Dakar Rally. The winning competitor can choose to enter the next Dakar or the following one, effectively giving the team a maximum of 18 months to prepare for the race. This means that crews who have previously won the Dakar Challenge or Road to Dakar, but haven’t been able to take up their prize, are eligible to win again in 2023.
In order to further level the playing field for competitors, the organisers of the Dakar Rally have set a rule that both the driver and navigator must be Dakar rookies, neither having taken part in the Dakar Rally before.
Crews hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous Road to Dakar winners need to specifically register for the challenge before the start of the TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race. Past winners of the race-within-a-race include Thomas Rundle, Gary Bertholdt, Jason Venter, Hennie de Klerk, Terence Marsh, Jaco van Dyk, Eben Basson and most recently Yannick Panagoitis.
“We are proud to once again host the iconic Desert Race, this time back in Botswana, where the race is one of the biggest sporting events on that country’s calendar,” says Toyota SA Motors Vice-President for Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “Toyota has been an integral part of South-African rally-raid racing for many decades, and our Dakar-winning Hilux T1+ has become a point of pride not only for the company, but for South Africans in general. This year, we are again pleased to offer a rookie crew the opportunity to share in the Dakar dream, by hosting the Road to Dakar in Botswana.”
This year’s TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race will take place on 23-25 June, in the area surrounding the town of Jwaneng in southern Botswana. This area has played host to the race on multiple occasions in the past, though the last time was in 2018, before a move to Selebi Pikwe in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 Desert Race to be cancelled, and the town of Upington, in South Africa’s Northern Cape, hosted in 2021 and 2022, with the race returning to Botswana for 2023.
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