Toyota has been the long-standing sponsor of the challenging Toyota 1000 Desert Race for 29 years now, and with six-times Desert Race winner Apie Reyneke on the charge in his Castrol Land Cruiser 4,5 EFI, 2003 might just be the turnaround for the multiple ex-champion. -

- Reyneke took five Toyota 1000 Desert Race victories in the King of Africa as the Toyota Land Cruiser is known in Botswana where the 2003 event will be taking place this weekend (June 13 - 5). His first win, however, was back in 1987 when he raced a Nissan Safari. -

- Reyneke and co-driver Robin Houghton had a good run in the opening event of the 2003 season, the Nissan 400 in the Western Cape, when they crossed the finishing line about three minutes behind race winners Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke (Nissan Hardbody). But misfortune struck in the prologue of the second event, the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu-Natal, when a hidden anthill damaged their front suspension and they were forced to retire even before the start of the actual race the next day. -

- Toyota’s young motor sport star, Mark Cronjé, who only raced in his very first event in March this year when he won Class E in a Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i, proved it was not just a lucky break when he came in a few seconds behind Class E winners Manfred Schröder and Jack Peckham (Ford Ranger) in the KZN race. -

- In both events the young Cronjé, racing with the help and expertise of veteran off-road navigator Chris Birkin, managed to out-run his Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux-teammates Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie (KZ-TE turbo diesel). Now he faces a real challenge with the Toyota 1000 Desert Race his very first taste of a marathon event. -

- Cronjé had a few "moments" after rolling the Castrol Hilux in the prologue of the previous event, but now realises the limits of both his driving skills and that of the vehicle - this was the first time he had rolled after years of racing on the circuit in a variety of production cars. -

- Toyota will be supported by a host of privateer entries, including Class D contenders Piet Haasbroek and Freddie Scheepers in their near-standard Castrol Land Cruiser now racing with brand new front and rear axles after first losing four-wheel drive and later coming to a stop with no drive at all in the Sugarbelt, when both differentials failed after never having been opened for maintenance. -

- Local Botswana businessmen Shumie van Vuuren and Carlos de Abreu are making a welcome comeback in a Chibuki-sponsored Toyota Land Cruiser in Class D, racing for the first time this year. They are hoping their local knowledge will give them the edge in what is expected to be one of the toughest off-road races on the calendar. -

- The 2003 Toyota 1000 Desert Race, starting on Saturday at 08:00 from the new Game Shopping Centre in Gaborone, is in effect a two-race event with 500 km covered on the first day and the whole route repeated in reverse on the second day.

Original article from Car