In the context of professional golf the Order of Merit for the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship that takes place in Botswana from June 11-13, is dominated by 11 drivers and co-drivers who currently participate in the championship.

Topping the rankings is co-driver Richard Leeke with six victories dating as far back as 1984 when he and Paddy Driver won the event in a Mitsubishi Pajero. Multiple rally and off road champion Leeke followed up his debut win with another in 1989 in the Toyota Hilux driven by Philip Malan, with two more victories in 1992 and 1993 in the Toyota Hilux he shared with Kassie Coetzee. Leeke had to wait nine years to claim his next win when he and Hannes Grobler romped to victory in 2002 in the Nissan Hardbody, a feat they repeated in 2003.

Apie Reyneke, who has retired from off road competition, rates as the all time top-ranked driver on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race with six wins to his credit of which four were with co-driver Robin Houghton who is second in the rankings. Houghton first tasted victory in 1995 then again in 1997, 1998 and 1999, each time in a Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser. The likelihood of Houghton improving his position is rather slim as he is playing mentor to rookie Gavin Cronje in the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux this season.

Two drivers, Hannes Grobler and Neil Woolridge, share third spot.

Grobler first won in 1986 in a Nissan Safari with co-driver Piet Swanepoel who will be Clerk of the Course on this year’s Toyota 1000 Desert Race and then had to wait 16 years before picking up another win. He and Richard Leeke scored back-to-back victories in 2002 and 2003 in the Nissan Hardbody.

Woolridge has won in three different vehicles. In 1996 he and Paul Vermaak won in the Nissan Sani and he and Ken Skjoldhammer then won in 2000 in a Mitsubishi Pajero and in 2001 in a Ford Ranger. Grobler and Leeke and Woolridge and Skjoldhammer have what it takes to win in Botswana and it will be interesting to see which of these crews improve their ranking.

Six drivers and co-drivers each have one win under their belts.

Richard Schilling won in 1990 when he and Fred Levesque took the overall win in the Chenowth. Schilling and Ashley Thorn will be in action in the Class S Plastotech Raceco and stand an outside chance of victory if some of the more fancied Class crews fall by the wayside.

Arch rival Buks Carolin won as a co-driver in 1995 when he and brother Richard powered the Lubrication Equipment Raceco to victory in the Special Vehicle category. Carolin has joined the ranks of the Kopanong Hotel Superteam and will be campaigning a Class A Raceco BMW for the rest of the season.

2004 Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Special Vehicle category winner Mark Corbett won the 2000 Toyota 1000 Desert Race in a Century Property Developments Jimco that he shared with Juan Mohr and is hoping that he and Gavin Kelsey can extend their Special Vehicle championship lead by winning in Botswana.

The latest additions to the Order of Merit are John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt who stormed from behind to win the Special Vehicle category in the O’Hagan’s / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco in 2003.

Only time and 1000 kilometres of some of the toughest conditions in the Absa Off Road Championship will tell whether those drivers and co-drivers that dominate the Order of Merit will be able to improve their rankings by winning yet again or whether new winners in the Production and Special Vehicle categories will join the ranks.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race will be run over three days with the Prologue getting underway at 12h00 on Friday, June 11 at Game City. Crews will have 35 kilometres in which to post the fastest possible time, which will determine their starting position for the main event.

The race proper starts at Game City in Gaborone at 08h00 on Saturday, June 12 with crews heading for the designated service point at Mantshwabisi and then returning to the overnight stop at Botswana Motorsport in Gaborone for a well earned rest after 500 kilometres of racing. The first motor vehicle is expected at 15h00.

The final day sees crews complete the route in the opposite direction with the event re-starting at 08h00 at Botswana Motorsport in Gaborone. Following a brief pit stop at Mantshwabisi the surviving crews will have only another 250 kilometres to go before the finish at Game City in Gaborone where the winner is expected to arrive at 14h00.

Original article from Car