Local rider, Ross Branch will be eyeing his third consecutive Toyota Desert Race title while the Toyota Gazoo team is out to cement its dominance in the Production Vehicles.
As the 1,000km race blasts into life in Jwaneng today,
the event commonly known as ‘Mantshwabisi’ forms the third and fourth rounds of the South African National Cross-Country Motorcycle Championship.
On local soil, Branch would be looking to claim the ‘King of the Desert’ crown as he prepares for the 2019 Dakar Rally. However, it would not be an easy task for Branch who is a single point behind Kenny Gilbert while they share the same amount of points in the OR1 Championship.
Gilbert, who has also entered the Dakar Rally, has just returned from Portugal where he participated in a two-day event to gain valuable navigational experience and as he had to settle for second position last year, he will be determined for a victory this year.
Fellow local rider, Dartagnan Lobjoit would like to show off some silverware in front of his home crowd while Branch’s Brother Leader Tread team-mate, Louw Schmidt, will hope for a good result as he had a miserable start to the season.
Like Gilbert, Branch, Schmidt and Lobjoit, Jaycee Nienaber can also count on his desert race experience as can Charan Moor, who is currently third in OR1 and podium
The High School category will make its debut at this year’s event. Local teenage two-wheeler, Kosmas Mamaloukos carries the country’s hopes for a podium finish.
In the Production Vehicles category, the Toyota Gazoo Racing is expected to continue its dominance in the event. The team has won consecutive titles since 2011. This time around they would bring three drivers for the event to take on Ford, Renault and archrivals, Nissan Red-Lined team.
The winner of the race is guaranteed a spot at next year’s Dakar Rally. Toyota has the upper hand as they have assembled a team of experienced drivers who include 2009 Dakar Rally champion, Giniel de Villiers.
Nissan will, however, not be a walkover. Ahead of the Desert Race, Nissan has competed in two Middle East events this season; the Mpumalanga 400, Battlefields 400 and the highly acclaimed Taklimakan Rally in China where the team again achieved a 100% finishing record.
With 60 points at stake, it would be an interesting battle between the two teams at the country’s biggest sporting event.
This year, just over 100,000 spectators are expected to descend on Jwaneng and its surrounding villages.