The annual Toyota 1000 Desert Race, which will be round three of the 2004 SA Off Road Car Racing Championship, is in line for a major revamp following a meeting between Toyota management, the MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission, the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa and Botswana Motorsport in Gaborone last week.

Major items on the agenda centred on better crowd control, creating a more spectator friendly route, providing easier access for officials, service crew and media to the designated service point at Mantshwabisi, improving relations between the two organising clubs and encouraging motorcycle and quad riders to return to Botswana after an absence of three years.

In a major departure from past events competitors, service crews, media and spectators will no longer overnight at Mantshwabisi but will instead head back to the overnight stop at the Botswana Motorsport base on the Francistown road.

“The Botswana Motorsport base is secure, well equipped with ablution and catering facilities and teams will have the choice of camping on site or returning to their hotels in the city,” said Rashid Noble from Botswana Motorsport. “There is a well laid out pit complex, a 1km stadium circuit, ample parking for spectators and only pedestrian access will be permitted within the club perimeter.”

The Four Wheel Drive Club and the Botswana Motorsport will join forces to create a route that is both a test for man and machine and a spectacle for the thousands of spectators who annually follow the event from start to finish.

“Sections of the route for this year’s Toyota 1000 Desert Race will be similar to that of last year but we intend placing more emphasis on bringing the action as close to spectator areas as possible and to improve access to these points,” said Bill Viljoen from the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa. “Last year proved to be a nightmare with traffic congestion and sometimes unruly crowds making it extremely difficult to follow the event.”

“The Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa will conduct training seminars for Botswana Motorsport members and the traffic authorities to encourage greater local involvement in the organisation of the event and to ensure that they are well equipped to deal with the throngs,” added Viljoen.

The motorcycle and quad fraternity were always a popular component of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and spectators have missed their absence over the past three years.

“The MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission will encourage the motorcycle and quad fraternity to return to Botswana and to this end we are already in discussions with the MSA Off Road Motorcycle and Quad Commissions,” said MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission President, Piet Swanepoel. “We believe that the changes to the format and the route of the event will be sufficient encouragement for them to return, albeit on an invitational basis in 2004 due to the fact that the championship calendar has already been finalised.”

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race will again be based at Game City with the venue used for documentation, scrutineering and the start and finish of the event.

The action gets underway with a Prologue on Friday, June 11 to determine starting positions for the main event, which starts on Saturday, June 12. On Saturday competitors will head out on a section of approximately 250km up to the designated service point at Mantshwabisi before returning to the Botswana Motorsport base via another section of approximately 250km. Sunday’s route will be inverted with the start at the Botswana Motorsport base and the finish at Game City.

The possibility of including an optional service point halfway to Mantshwabisi and midway on the return route to Gaborone is being investigated.

“The Toyota 1000 Desert Race is widely regarded as Botswana’s largest sporting event and is also a major marketing platform for Toyota in South Africa and in Botswana,” said Francois Loubser, Vice President: Marketing Communications of Toyota South Africa. “We are heartened by the fact that the problems of the past are being addressed and believe that the improved relationship between the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa and Botswana Motorsport will bear fruit.”

Original article from Car