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Fears allayed over future of Desert Race

KABELO BORANABI
Raising dust: BMS says it expects the Desert race to remain in Botswana PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
The Botswana Motor Sport has reassured motorsport fans that the iconic Toyota 1000 Desert Race (TDR) is not lost to the country.

This comes after this year’s event was moved to South Africa for the first time in the event’s 30-year history. The race, commonly known as Mantswabisi, was postponed for the second consecutive year in Botswana but will be held in Upington South making it the first time since 1991 that the race is held outside the country. "The situation of [the coronavirus] (COVID-19) has caused everything that is happening right now.

The race needs months of preparation and COVID-19 has caused a lapse, it becomes a headache to organise and conquer everything that comes with the pandemic.

As local stakeholders, we are aware that SACCS will be hosting the race in Upington but it is temporary, we are confident that it will be back here next year. Neither of the parties has shown discontent with the agreement that they want out so, we should expect that the race should come back home next year," Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) president Kagiso Modibedi told Mmegi Sport. He, however, admitted BMS has its hands tied and will await communication from the South African Cross Country Championship (SACCS) on the matter.

Mantswabisi is the largest cross-country event in Southern Africa and forms round three of both the SACCS and the BMS National Championship. The three-day event is adored by both riders and spectators as it gives participants a chance to double points.

It attracts estimated crowds of just under 200,000 every year making it the biggest sporting event in the country. Botswana has been home to the TDR since 1991 traversing thousands of kilometres in several areas including Gaborone, Mantshwabisi, Lentsweletau, Hatsalatladi and Kumakwane with the last stop being Jwaneng. In 2018, in adherence to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements that the terrain is changed every five years, the race

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was moved to Selebi-Phikwe.

SACCS together with BMS, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and SPEDU signed a five-year deal to take the event to Selebi-Phikwe. The organisers earlier this year announced that the race had been called off in Botswana. However, according to a revised SACCS calendar, TDR would be held in Upington, Northern Cape on the weekend of June 18-20, which were the prospected dates for the race in Phikwe. With the contract in its third year and two editions already cancelled, fears grew that Botswana has lost the hosting rights to the neighbouring country. SACCS and the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has also assured, the postponement of the TDR in Botswana does not mean the competition is relocating.

The two parties have said the postponement was due to the rise of the new COVID-19 strain across the sub-region. “The logistics and infrastructure requirements for the TDR 1000 are enormous, and considering the severe impact of the 2020 pandemic on world economies, health and personal fronts combined with the unpredictability of the near future, we believe this to be a responsible decision,” SACCS chief executive officer Archie Rutherford is quoted as saying. Last year, the race lost out on becoming an official Dakar Rally qualifying event as Kalahari Desert Race held in South Africa got the nod. Modibedi has, meanwhile said BMS will not have a national championship this year but will have a couple of races to patch up. "We do not want to be seen as a federation that has spread the pandemic in the country.

So surely when we host a big event a lot of people would turn up, currently we are on hold. We will host a few races to make up for the national championship," he said.



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