It was a case of total domination, when Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, in association with Total Quartz took, on the 2016 Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race in Jwaneng, Botswana on 24-26 June. The team recorded an overall victory in the hands of Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, driving their ultra-reliable Class FIA Toyota Hilux. The pair completed Friday’s qualifying race in second position, behind teammates Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy, and never put a wheel wrong after that.
“Well, we’ve certainly proven that we can deliver the goods in Jwaneng,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, in association with Total Quartz, Team Principal Glyn Hall from the DSP after Poulter/Howie completed their race. “Leeroy and Rob made us very proud, and Anthony and Dennis showed true grit by fighting back despite some setbacks on Day 1 of the race.”
Taylor/Murphy won the Desert Race in 2015, and looked set to continue their winning ways when they recorded the fastest time during Friday’s qualifying race. However, a technical infringement on Saturday initially cost the pair more than an hour in penalties. This was later reduced to just 15 minutes, after it became apparent that the transgression was not their fault. As a result, Taylor/Murphy started the final day of the race in fourth position, 12 minutes behind leaders Poulter/Howie.
They got stuck in right from the start, and clawed their way back into second position on the road. Even with their 15 minutes’ penalty applied, the stalwarts still finished in second position overall, ahead of one-time teammates Conrad Rautenbach and Dirk von Zitzewitz, piloting a third FIA-spec Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux.
“The Desert is an extremely long and tough race,” said Rautenbach after successfully completing the 1000 km-long race. “However, it is a good taster for Dakar, and that is ultimately my goal.”
The driver from Zimbabwe, partnered for this race with the highly experienced Dirk von Zitzewitz, showed his depth of character by tackling Southern Africa’s most iconic motorsport event – and not only finishing, but recording a podium finish in the process.
In Class T for South African-spec vehicles with solid rear axle suspension, 4×4 Mega World’s Jason Venter and navigator Vince von Allenman flew the flag for Toyota by recording a hard-won victory. Venter/Von Alleman had to mount a comeback after a tough qualifying round that saw him start Saturday’s loop in 18th place overall.
“We passed a lot of cars, but drove with care and let the race come to us,” said the plucky Klerksdorp youngster after his epic fight-back.
Class S saw another 4×4 Mega World crew, Heinie Strumpher and navigator Henri Hugo, record a victory on the second day of the race. The pair failed to complete the opening day, as did all the other crews competing in Class S. However, they drove a clean race on Sunday to put some points on the board.
With his victory in Botswana, Poulter further extended his lead at the top of the standings in the 2016 Donaldson Cross-Country Championship.
While the crews in Southern Africa were taking on the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Matthieu Baumel, took on the Italian Baja, Round 4 of the FIA’s Cross-Country World Cup. The pair again fielded a South African built and designed Toyota Hilux, and recorded their third victory on the trot in this year’s championship. This extends their championship lead, and the pair are looking forward to Round 5, which takes place in Spain next month.
“Winning in Italy was great for the team,” concluded Hall. “But adding that to a hat-trick in Botswana elevated this weekend to one of my top experiences as a team principal.”