When Richard Leeke III rolls down the start ramp of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1 000 Desert Race, the third round of the South African Cross Country Series, on Friday June 23, he’ll be following in some very large footsteps: his father’s.
Brian Joss – Richard Leeke II has a record nine overall “Desert Race” (in its various iterations) wins, the first going back to 1992 and the last in 2007.
All of them were from the co-driver’s seat, where Richard senior’s attention to detail and cool head under pressure saw him guide some of the top names in the sport to victory in one of the toughest races on the sub-continent.
Richard III made his cross-country debut this year and has less than a quarter of the off-road race starts than his father has victories in this single event, but at 21, that’s understandable. However, he already has a class win, with him and co-driver Henry Köhne powering their ATS Motorsport Ford Ranger to victory on the Battlefields 400, second round of the SACCC, which took place in KZN in mid-May.
“The Desert Race is twice as long as any other event in the championship so it will take its toll on man and machine,” cautioned Leeke. “It is also uncharted territory for us in every sense of the word so we have prepared even harder than usual – just one slip in concentration and it can all come to a very sudden end.”
With this in mind, they’ve both worked on their fitness – and specifically their endurance – and will head to Botswana in top physical shape. They will rely on the P1 Nutrition range of products which ATS sells – it is the only sports nutrition product range in the world designed specifically with the unique demands of motorsport in mind – with formulations for use both before and during an event.
They will also make use of a new, locally-designed hydration system – RaceMate – to optimise delivery of fluids to driver and co-driver.
In addition, even more care than usual has gone into the preparation of their Class S Ranger double-cab. Says Köhne: “Because the distances between servicing is much longer than usual, we’ve paid extra attention to ensuring reliability. We’ve beefed it up in a couple of areas and taken a fresh look at what emergency spares we carry and have added a couple of items to our ‘Boer maak ‘n plan’ roadside repair kit.”
The race comprises four loops of 210 km, a pair on Saturday on Sunday.
That’s 840 km of racing – excluding a 70-km prologue on Friday to determine starting positions – so the event does virtually live up to its claim of being a 1 000-km race.
Being a marathon, double points are scored, which makes it even more important to get back to the finish at Jwaneng, Botswana under their own steam on Sunday afternoon.
“It was great to have won our class last month and it has certainly boosted our confidence and also gave us a maximum opportunity to refine our technique,” said Leeke Jnr. “But we aren’t under any illusion as to what kind of challenge lies ahead of us in Botswana, so we’re going in with eyes wide open.
“From a personal point of view, it is really exciting to be competing for the first time in an event that has such a strong connection with my dad’s motorsport career, and I really hope I can make him proud!”