Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race veterans who think the blue ribband race on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar no longer has the capacity to come up with surprises, will be shocked out of a comfort zone at this year’s race from June 21 to 23.
A new Four Wheel Drive Club of SA team under event director Alan Reid has completely revamped the course for what is round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. Competitors will be taken into areas which the race has never ventured before, with 90 percent of the route completely new.
First run in 1975 the event moved to Botswana in 1991 and this year celebrates 32 years of Toyota sponsorship.
Race headquarters will again be at Kumakwane about 25 kilometres north-west of Gaborone – and that is about where similarities to recent ventures into the desert end.
“The Saturday and Sunday routes offer technical tight sections, two rocky mountain passes, thick bush, sandy river beds and some spectacular river bank driving,” said Reid. “It is a course that also includes everything else teams have come to expect.
“This is a race that always tests man and machine to the limit and this year will be no exception.”
The Saturday loop is 245 kilometres long and takes in tight bush sections, open dirt roads and a mountain route never before raced. From Kumakwane the route heads west and runs in an anti clockwise direction to Thamaga and Kanye before heading back to race headquarters via Polokwe.
The first 40 kilometres of the Sunday route are the same as the previous day. The route then heads south before joining a short section of the Saturday route.
After another split competitors tackle a mountain section before rejoining the last 25 kilometres of common route back to race headquarters. There are spectacular spectator points where the route runs through dry Kolobeng River beds.
The route crosses the Kolobeng River several times and also goes under the main road at the village of Mmangodi. Sundays loop is 220 kilometres in length and is expected to be a faster day because of more open sections of dirt track.
Although still starting and ending in Kumakwane, the in and out section of the designated service park have been swapped over to accommodate the new route as well as a ceremonial start.
The day one qualifying race to determine race grid positions is a tight 60 kilometre route that utilises 30 kilometres of the outbound route and 17 kilometres of the return route. Both the Saturday and Sunday routes use a common 42 kilometre outbound and 25 kilometre return loop.
Reid added the village of Kumakwane would again be setting up public areas for local traders to sell food, drink and other wares and the village would reap substantial financial benefits from the race. At the same time the DSP and access roads would again be maintained and improved by locally based competitor Keith du Toit and his team from Babcock Botswana.
The Botswana police play a major role in the smooth running of the race with a heavy police presence at the DSP and at public areas along the route. The police will deploy around 700 officers as well as patrol cars, motorcycle patrolmen, a helicopter and other equipment along the route.
“We have again had amazing support from local authorities in areas through which the route travels, as well as the Botswana Tourism Organisation, the Department of Tourism and Environment, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority and the Botswana Department of Health,” Reid said. “Many other departments have come together to make this race happen, and without this co-operation we would not be able to run the event.”
Access to race headquarters and the DSP will be controlled, but entry to spectator areas will be free of charge.
The qualifying race to determine race grid positions will start at 13:00 on June 21 and racing sections one and two on the next two days will start at 08:30.