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Toyota 1000 Desert Race History
The Desert Race began its life as the Total Trans-Kalahari Race in 1975 and was run for several years in the area directly below the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, but with the signing of the Gleneagles Agreement, we were no longer welcome in Botswana. So, from 1981 the event took place in the Northern Cape in the Vryburg/Taylor's Pan area and this is when Toyota SA Marketing came on board as the event sponsor and it became known as the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.
In the late 1980s game farming became increasingly popular and the areas available to run this 1000 kilometre event shrank drastically. As a result of this, the idea of moving back to Botswana was explored and in 1991, the event moved back to Botswana, where it all began way back in '75. The event has grown in popularity and stature over the years, with competitors considering it the 'Comrades Marathon' of off-road events. Now, 21 years on, the relationship between the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa and Toyota SA Marketing remains a stable and successful one and this is certainly the reason for the Toyota 1000 Desert Race's unrivalled position as the most popular event on the off-road calendar.
How the Toyota 1000 Desert Race came about
The connection between the Four Wheel Drive Club and Toyota with the Desert Race dates back to pre "Toyota Desert Race" days. John Salters was the common denominator - he was Clerk of the Course of the Total Trans-Kalahari, the Chairman of the Four Wheel Drive Club Organising Committee and was employed by Toyota.
When Total pulled the plug on the sponsorship of the Total Trans-Kalahari, before the signing of the Gleneagles Agreement and the subsequent expulsion of the event from Botswana, John Salters negotiated a sponsorship with Toyota for the Desert Race and it was then moved to the Northern Cape in the Vryburg area.
In the early days of Total Trans-Kalahari, it was a car-only event but in 1978 motorcycles took part in the event for the first time. This added a new and exciting dimension to the event.
In 1988 John Salters was killed in a car accident, and Peter Mounsear-Wilson stepped in as the Clerk of the Course and the Four Wheel Drive Club retained the Toyota 1000 Desert Race as their event. It remained as the premier event on the national championship calendar for both motor vehicles and motorcycles. In 1996 the four wheel motorcycle 'quads' took part in the event for the first time, adding yet another colourful dimension to off-road racing.
The Motorcycle Off-Road Commission, at a meeting in 2001, decided to stage their own national championship event in the Vryburg area in 2002. This decision resulted in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race losing its national championship status for motorcycles and quads.
In view of the unmatched terrain that Botswana offers, many motorcycle and quad competitors expressed the wish to enter the 2002 event in Botswana. This has set a precedent for the subsequent Toyota 1000 Desert Races.
In 2004, The Four Wheel Drive Club - Gauteng provided in excess of 150 people in various portfolios, such as marshals, rescue personnel, etc. This translates into over 5500 man-hours over the weekend, so you can see that the commitment from the FWDCSA is immense.
Motorsport SA is the national body governing motor sport in SA. All events, whether club, regional or national, have to be sanctioned by Motorsport SA. All competitors have to obtain an MSA competition licence in order to take part in any of the above events and for the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, they require a national licence for cars and a regional licence for motorcycle and quads.
In 2004, Bill Viljoen was asked by the Four Wheel Drive Club to take over the organisation of the event. Competitors and sponsors alike agree that the 2004 event was a great success. The traditional overnight stop was not included in the event for the national competitors, who now could get a good night's rest in their Gaborone accommodation for the Sunday leg. The terrain was true 4x4 competitiveness, seeing that only 19 of the 79 entrants crossed the finish line.
Bikes and quads competed in the regional race, which covered the first 250 kilometers of the race route on day one and the reverse route for day two.
The 2004 TDR once again proved to be the premier event on the off-road racing calendar.
2006 and 2007 Saw Skean Drummond organising the event on behalf of the Club, and it continues to be professionally managed. Without Toyota as the main sponsor, and support from other sponsors from time to time, as well as the many officials behind the scenes who volunteer, this national championship race would be unable to take place.
As always the event provides many hours of conversation around the pub and campfire with both competitors and spectators telling of their adventures while at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana.
See a comprehensive list of past winners of this prestigious event here.
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