Botswana Desert Race “a big one for Toyota Gazoo Racing”

As the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship nears its mid-point, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is gearing up for the spectacular Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race. The crown jewel in the local championship forms rounds 3 and 4 of this year’s schedule, and takes place from 24 to June 26, in the area around the southern Botswana town of Jwaneng.

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss – “The Desert Race is a big one – not only for us, but for all the teams in the championship, mainly because there are double points on offer in the desert,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “But as a Toyota-sponsored event, we feel extra pressure to perform well in Botswana.”

Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie: aiming to do better in 1000 Desert Race. Picture: Waldo van der Waal, Toyota Gazoo Racing
Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie: aiming to do better in 1000 Desert Race. Picture: Waldo van der Waal, Toyota Gazoo Racing

The 2016 race is also a landmark for the team, as it will be the first race undertaken with new partners Total Quartz on board. As such, the team will be known as Toyota Gazoo Racing SA in association with Total Quartz, and the Toyota Hilux livery has been updated to reflect the new partnership.

The Total Group, with its headquarters in Paris, France, invests billions of Euros in research and development every year.

Dineo Mondlane, Total’s marketing manager, said: “Toyota Gazoo Racing is one of the premiere teams in the country, and we are thrilled at the prospect of several podium finishes during the remainder of this year’s racing.”

Last year’s Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race saw the Toyota squad peg first place overall, when Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy emerged victorious after three tough days in the desert. The pair played second fiddle to teammates Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie during both the qualifying race and the opening day. But Poulter/Howie lost some time early on the final day, letting their teammates through in the process. In the end, the pair finished in third place overall, though they still scored enough points to help secure the 2015 championship.

Toyota will also be well represented by a host of privateers, including Jason Venter and Vince van Alleman in their 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux (Class T), as well as brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Class T Malalane Toyota Hilux. Class S, for vehicles with engines up to four litres, also feature a number of Toyota crews, such as Jannie Visser, Heinie Strumpher, Otto Graven and Ronald Graven.

In addition to the privateers, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA in association with Total Quartz will also be fielding a third Toyota Hilux, in factory Dakar colours. This vehicle will be driven by cross-country newcomer Conrad Rautenbach, with the highly experienced Dirk von Zitzewitz doing duty as navigator. Rautenbach is a former South African national rally champion, and has also competed successfully in the WRC alongside Sebastien Loeb.

“We are excited about Conrad joining us for the Desert Race,” says Hall. “Not only will it give him an opportunity to experience the Toyota Hilux with an eye on possible Dakar participation, but it also gives Dirk – who navigates for Giniel de Villiers on Dakar – more time in the vehicle.”

This year’s race will again be contested over a total race distance of 1,000 km, consisting of a qualifying race of 120 km on Friday, June 24th, and two individual race loops of  roughly 440 km each. These two race loops offer a variety of terrain types, including low scrub and brush, the occasional rock, and lots of thick sand.

As in the past, the race HQ and Designated Service point (DSP) will be situated at the Jwaneng Sports Club and showgrounds. Entry to this area is strictly controlled, though spectators have free access to numerous viewing points along the route.

While Toyota Gazoo Racing SA in association with Total Quartz will be taking part in Botswana, Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mattieu Baumel will be fielding their locally built Toyota Hilux on the Italian Baja. This four-day event is round four of the FIA’s Cross-Country World Cup, which Al Attiyah currently leads. The Qatari driver won the World Cup in 2015, and have won both rounds that he has competed in thus far in 2016.

“The Toyota Hilux is an unbelievable machine,” said Al Attiyah after winning the Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar at the end of April, 2016. “Matthieu and I have really enjoyed racing the Hilux, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

The Italian Baja gets under way on June 23 and concludes on June 26. The race takes place in the area around the town of Pordenone, in northern Italy.

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