The 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, reached an exciting and historic climax in Gaborone, Botswana on Sunday afternoon.

Multiple off road motorcycle champions Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford became the first driver and co-driver combination to win the event on two and four wheels when they powered their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody across the finish line in a total elapsed time of 14h34m26s.

The pair gave notice of their intention to win when they out qualified team mates Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan by 44-seconds in Friday’s Prologue. They briefly lost the lead on Saturday when they picked up a puncture but soon regained their position when Grobler and Jordaan ended up in a ditch and went on to record a maiden overall win in the Production Vehicle category.

Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler, the 2004 Milestone Award winners for completing every event in the Absa Off Road Championship, finished a fine second overall and first in Class D in the trusty Master Craft Ryobi Mitsubishi Pajero. It was Zermatten’s 17th successive finish and first class win in the Pajero.

Third overall and a mere 6,5-seconds behind Zermatten and Schwegler were Castrol Toyota pair Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton in the Hilux 2.7i. While Houghton has won the Toyota 1000 four times as a co-driver it was Cronje’s first ever podium finish since making his off road racing debut in 2004.

Production Vehicle championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan had a disastrous start to the race when they damaged the left front suspension upright and brake disk and caliper when the Proudly South African Nissan ended up in a ditch soon after the start on Saturday. They lost over 90-minutes repairing the damage and dropped to 50th on the road but a spirited drive saw them claw their way to 20th overall at the end of Racing Section 1.

The talented pair started Racing Section 2 with a 1h23m deficit over their teammates but Grobler again pulled out all the stops to finish second on the road but fourth on corrected time. Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox had a trouble free run and finished fifth overall and third in Class D in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie started 58th on Saturday after the clutch on their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i failed during the Prologue. Like Grobler and Jordaan they faced the daunting task of having to gain as many places as possible in the thick dust. They moved up from 58th to 13th on Saturday and were making steady progress on Sunday before colliding with the Sandmaster of Class B leaders Don Thomson and Wally Pooler in the choking dust. They lost some time but eventually finished sixth overall and fourth in Class D.

Brothers Andre and Jurie du Plessis brought their BB Auto Nissan Hardbody home in seventh place and fifth in Class D and were followed across the line by Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo who recorded their first Class E win in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. George Barkhuizen and Rod Hering finished ninth overall and second Class D in the ex-Marius van Vuuren Toyota Hilux.

Mark and Stuart Moffat survived a collision with Team Ford Racing’s Baphumze Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa on Racing Section 1, which put the Team Ford pair out action but left the Bosal Brospeed Land Rover relatively unscathed. The brothers finished 10th overall and sixth in Class D.

David Marsh and Pieter Barnard were 11th overall and seventh in Class D in the Nissan Hardbody with Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guezpa in the Mitsubishi Pajero 12th and eighth in Class D.

Andre Botha and Richard Carolin were the last placed finishers and Class F winners in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevrolet.

The Special Vehicle category produced some close racing between reigning Special Vehicle champions and 2004 Toyota 1000 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin in the Total Jimco and 2005 Nissan Sugarbelt winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in the iBurst Advansoft BAT.

Bertholdt and Rousseau got the better of Makgekgenene and Carolin in the Prologue and in Racing Section 1 and started the final day with a six second lead, which they lost soon after the restart. Two punctures and a damaged left front suspension arm forced the BAT pair into retirement and all that Makgekgenene and Carolin had to do was cruise to the finish and their second successive Toyota 1000 win.

Total teammates Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl finished second overall in the Total Porter and were followed home by father and son Nick and Ryan Harper in the Audi powered BAT.

Reigning Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain started 57th on Saturday after the gearbox in their JRE failed during the Prologue. They made up 40 places and started 12m45s behind overnight Class B leaders Thomson and Pooler who were involved in a collision with Piazza-Musso and Fourie and Grobler and Jordaan soon after the restart. This incident allowed Taylor and de Chalain to grab the lead, which they retained to the finish.

Thomson and Pooler finished fifth overall and second in Class B with veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies, who have a combined age of 109-years, sixth overall and first in Class S in the Plastotech Aceco.

Swaziland based John Thomson and Clinton McNamara finished seventh overall and third in Class B in the Mormond Zarco Lite with Giel Nel and Peter Newbery eighth overall and fourth in Class A in the LUK Ate Bosal Zarco Lite. Kallie Sullwald was the last placed finisher in the Class B Mighty Mag single seater.

Only 22 of the 63 starters managed to complete the 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

The next round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Sun City 400, takes place in the Pilanesberg on July 1 and 2.

Original article from Car