When Toyota 1000 Desert Race heroes Duncan Vos and Chris Visser fire up their glorious V8 engines in June this year, the scenery around them will be a lot different. It is a year things will be drastically different for drivers, riders, officials and spectators alike.
Officials from the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and the Botswana Motorsport Association (BMS) this week confirmed the race will be held in the sandy Jwaneng/Kgalagadi area after a lot of speculation around the future of the race late last year.
One thing is for sure: the race will be a whole new animal for all involved as it moves further towards the Kgalagadi desert sands. The race, which is part of the South Africa ABSA Off-Road championship will be gruelling for both man and machine. Heavy and loose sands reminiscent of the Dakar Rally race will replace the thick bushy and rocky race courses. The desert in Kgalagadi will be more taxing for drivers and their monster 4X4 machines while spectators will likely get a more enhanced racing experience.
Moving to a different territory and terrain also means more work, resources and strategy for teams and their mechanics as vehicle set up will need to be different. Desert race favourites like Toyota and Ford are therefore likely to dominate as they are well-resourced. There is also the issue of logistics as teams, mostly from South Africa, will move their equipment further into the country. Botswana Motorsport (BMS) development officer Simon Modisaeman thinks moving the race to the mining town is a good development as the event will enhance the global image of the diamond town as well as boost the economy especially of the town’s satellite areas through which the route will pass.
Speaking to BG Sport this week, Modisaeman said negotiations with relevant stakeholders in the mining town were still on for the race scheduled for June.
Modisaeman said these stakeholders include the Jwaneng Town Council, Debswana mining company and the community. “As BMS we have to see to it that every thing goes well. When you organise a motorsport event you have to embark on a risk assessment plan and adhere to international rules and regulations,” he said. Modisaeman, who is also a liaison officer for the Federation Internationale de l Automobile (FIA) in Botswana said safety for race spectators was paramount. Remember that people will be travelling from farther places like Gaborone and Molepolole,” he said.
Modisaeman was confident that locally-trained marshals will be able to handle the off-road event that attracts up to 100 000 spectators annually. “Our marshals will have the opportunity to show their skills after they received training from FIA officials last year,” he said. Quizzed on whether more Batswana will race in this year’s event, Modisaeman said it was too early to tell.
Modisaeman revealed that a company that manages the race was taking care of registration. “The two wheeler and quad motorbike categories will be managed by the BMS after affiliation to the Federale Internationale de Motorcyclisme (FIM),” he said. Reached for comment, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) public relations officer Keitumetse Setlang said they want to keep moving the epic race around the country.
“We do not want it to follow the same route all the time so that we give the environment time and chance to recover,” he said. Setlang added that moving the race would break the monotony of hosting it in the same place and give revellers something new to look forward to. “We are currently in consultation with the Jwaneng Town Council on a plan that we will share with the public soon. This plan includes opportunities that will come with the race.”