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2014-06-09 13:07

DUST BUSTERS: Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton plough through the 2013 Botswana Desert Race. Image: Quickpic

CHARMAIN FORTUNE

The next round of the SA National Cross-Country Championship is the popular Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race which sees the event being moved from metropolitan Kumakwane to rural Jwaneng.

New initiatives to provide growth and future sustainability to the Desert Race will be in place for round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, from June 27-29.

HALFWAY MARK

The race is the only marathon event on the calendar, and is the halfway mark in the championship. The event carries double points counting towards the cross-country championship, and over the years has grown into the biggest sporting and social event in Botswana.

In 2014 there is an added attraction with an invitation motorcycle event to run in conjunction with the Desert Race on June 27/28.

Both events count towards the Dakar Challenge which offers the winners free entry into 2015’s Dakar Rally in South America. The Desert Race will be organised by the South African National Off Road Association which is the custodian, organiser and promoters of the Cross-Country Championship.

The invitation motorcycle race will be organised by Botswana Motorsport which was recently granted full membership of the FIA and FIM, the world controlling bodies for car and motorcycle racing.

SANORA CEO and FIA Cross-Country Commission president Richard Schillin said: "The fresh initiatives we have taken in 2014 came after a review of last year’s race, and discussions we had with the Botswana Tourism Organisation and Botswana Motorsport."

EVENT RELOCATION

Chief among the changes is relocating the event from Kumakwane, on the outskirts of Gaborone, to Jwaneng which is 160km west of the Botswana capital. Jwaneng is also home to the world’s richest diamond mine.

Schilling said: "The switch is based on a request from BTO. The Desert Race provides a major financial injection to areas in which the event is held, and the move creates the opportunity for rural communities to also benefit from the race.

"There is also a safety aspect in moving from a metropolitan to a rural location, and every effort has been made to make the route environmentally friendly."

Schilling added Sanora would continue to collaborate with Botswana Motorsport in sharing skills and improving expertise in particular spheres of motor racing. This was an important element in the relationship between Sanora and BMS.

“The huge interest the race generates is indicative of the popularity of motor racing in Botswana, and cross-country in particular,” Schilling said. “Sanora has always had a solid working relationship with the Botswana government, BTO, Botswana Land Board and the Botswana Police Services.

"The Desert Race holds a special place in the SA Championship, and we will be working closely with our Botswana counterparts to ensure the future growth and sustainability of the event.”

Schilling added that being a part of the Dakar Challenge had provided the events with added impetus. The Dakar Challenge also heralded Botswana’s acceptance into the international cross-country racing community.

The qualifying race to determine grid positions will be held over a 100km route on June 27. Crews will then face two days of racing over a course of approximately 450km on June 28/29.

Both Day two and three of the race will be run over two loops of the course with a compulsory 15-minute halt at the end of the first lap. With the move to Jwaneng, the route for the 2014 event is completely new and it will be the third time this season crews have ventured into uncharted waters.

The final route has been completed and is typically Botswana, meaning a tight course with plenty of sand, thorn bushes and trees.
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