It began on a Friday afternoon in the small mining town of Jwaneng, about 150km south of Gaborone with the prologue to determine who starts where. This qualifying session is vitally important as it determines who has a clear road ahead at the start of the race and who will have to tackle the often tough terrain first.
The Brazilian pair, Reinaldo Varla and Gustavo Gugelmin, took pole position in their Hilux during the prologue, while local Toyota boys Poulter/Howie managed fourth and Taylor/Murphy seventh, for the start of the first day.
Many who attended the 32 previous desert races said this event was back to the original concept. The terrain, for instance, featured more soft sand than in recent years while there were more chances for overtaking which made the event really exciting to watch and tough for the competitors.
Being my first desert race I tried to soak up as much of the experience as possible. One thing remains in my mind… the locals and their enthusiasm for motorsport. It was a great thing to witness crowds working themselves up, when one of the V8 or V6 race cars came roaring past.
My only wish is that we have as much passion for our local motorsport in SA. There were competitors from overseas and even a gentleman from the Dakar commission who were really impressed with the high level of skill and talent from our drivers, which says quite a bit about how competitive South Africans are.
As we entered day one, Taylor/Murphy were on a mission to catch their teammates Poulter/Howie who made a mistake and handed them the lead going in to day two. Unfortunately the Brazilian duo had an incident involving a tree which meant they fell back in the field and weren’t as competitive as they’d hoped to be.
Heading into day two, it appeared the two Castrol Team Toyotas were the two cars that would battle it out for the victory while the team Malalane Toyota Hilux pairing of Johan and Werner Horn had a stronghold on third position. As the day progressed, Poulter and Howie were catching the two up front after losing time to a puncture. Each checkpoint that we chased them to, the gap appeared smaller but in the end it was last year’s winner, Taylor, who claimed overall honours and in the process claimed 50 points in the Drivers Championship because of the length of the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race.
"We knew it was tight between ourselves and Leeroy," said Taylor after finishing. "We both had our moments with flat tyres and other challenges, but in the end we were fortunate to hold onto our lead right until the end."
Second place went to Poulter and Howie who finished just 32 seconds behind, while the Malalane Horn duo scooped third. The Brazilian pair fought back to sixth place, one position ahead of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux who won Class S in their V6 Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux. The two class victories means that Toyota won the Manufacturer’s Challenge for the weekend
This race also allowed for the Dakar Challenge to take place which involves drivers completing a cross-country challenge allowing the winners free entry to the 2015 Dakar Rally. Gary Berthold, in a Ford Ranger, won this year’s Dakar Challenge.
The Desert Rally is definitely something that you have to experience for yourself; I thoroughly enjoyed watching our local talent do us proud on an international stage. The next round of the championship is Round 5, the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City, which takes place on the 8th and 9th of August 2014.