It is a touch tight at the top of the Special Vehicle title race but with 60 points up for grabs at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship, there is plenty of scope for radical change.
As matters stand only two points separate the leaders, the Motorite BAT Venom crew of former champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald, and Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya in the Cobalt Racing Stryker. Reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Viper) are only six points adrift of the leaders, so a possible injection of 60 championship points would be a godsend for any team at this stage of the season.
The two Motorite teams have good records on this event, but there is a golden opportunity for other teams to seize the moment and go for glory in Botswana. The major problem the likes of Zahos and Bodhanya and Sarel van Biljon/Phillip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) have faced in recent seasons comes down to a question of reliability.
Pace has never been a problem for both teams and Zahos/Bodhanya have been exemplary this season. A non finish cost van Biljon/Herselman a victory on the Vredefort Super Sprint, but clean runs over the two heats making up the race would place pressure on the Motorite cars.
There have been promising starts to the season from the likes of Stefan van Pletzen/Jaco Pieterse (Chenowth) and Keith Makenete/Taelo Mochebelele (BAT) but they now need to push on. The husband and wife pairing of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) will find the conditions to their liking and have the potential to come with something spectacular, while Keith du Toit/Robbie Coetzee (White Star Racing BAT) have the opportunity to turn home ground advantage into something worthwhile.
There are, however, two other Class A crews who could throw a spanner in the works. At the turn of the century Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr got their names on the Toyota Desert Race winner’s trophy, and recent Dakar Rally success is a testimony to the pair’s longevity.
Now campaigning in the Century Racing CR-5 the pair are something of an enigma but scored a podium finish in last year’s race, and are entirely capable of turning the event on its head. One also suspects the Donaldson series has not seen the best of Australian Dave McShane and his South African co-driver, Leander Pienaar, in the Fox Racing Porter.
McShane numbers among his wins the Australian Safari and it would appear longer distances suit him. The marathon distance this race covers could be right up his alley.
Once again a rejuvenated Class P is set to provide something out of the ordinary. A mix of experienced competitors and newcomers is always interesting, with reigning champions John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco Magnum) once again in the championship lead.
But the two crews who have lowered the Thomson/Zermatten colours in successive races, Willem du Toit/Bertus Goussard (CR-T) and Werner Kennedy/Thinus Venter (Aceco), are both in the field. That sets up a series of personal duels in which Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco), who have made a steady start to the season, will also have an interest.
Regulars like Grant Watkins/Paul Mare (Zarco), John Telford/Victor Ntsekhe (Hellcat), Guy Henley/Martin Hermida (Century Racing CR-T) and Andrew Makenete/Reginald Mothibeli (Zarco) will rub shoulders with some newcomers. Hendrik Uys/Gavin Bennett and Shaun van Rooyen/Gene Rodgers get their first taste of the Toyota Desert Race with both crews out in CR-T models.
The 120 kilometre qualifying race to determine grid positions will start at 10:30 on Friday, June 24. This will be followed by a ‘south’ loop on Saturday, June 25 and an ‘east’ loop on Sunday, June 26 with each starting at 08:30.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point are again located at the Jwaneng Sports Club and adjoining showground facility. Public access to these areas will be controlled, but there is free entry into spectator viewing points along the route.