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Toyota SA Motors today announced their support of the 4th round of the 2017 Dakar Challenge, which will form part of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race. This iconic race is round three of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), and will take place in the area around the mining town of Jwaneng, on 23-25 June 2017.
The Dakar Challenge is an annual series, run in conjunction with several global cross-country races. The winner of each round of the challenge is invited to take part in Dakar 2018, with their entry fees waived as reward.
This year’s Dakar Challenge consists of five rounds, with three dedicated to motorcycles, and two catering for cars. Toyota’s sponsorship of the Dakar Challenge, as part of the Desert Race, opens the door for local competitors to compete on the Dakar Rally at a vastly reduced cost.
“Since 2012, Toyota SA Motors has successfully campaigned our Toyota Hilux on the Dakar Rally. As such we feel a strong bond with the race, and our sponsorship of the Dakar Challenge is a way of giving something back to the local cross country fraternity,” says Toyota SA Motors Vice-President: Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “There is no doubt that the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race is the crown jewel in the South African Cross Country Series, and adding the prestigious Dakar Challenge to our event makes perfect sense.”
This year’s Dakar Challenge kicks off on March 21-23 at the Sonora Rally in Mexico, which caters only for bikes. The next round is the India Baja on April 7-9, again hosting the motorcycling fraternity. Round three is the Merzouga Rally of Morocco, which takes place on May 7-13, which will be the final opportunity for a talented biker to win free entry to the Dakar.
The first of the car rounds is the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race, on 23-25th June. The series draws to a close on July 21-23 at the Baja Aragon in Spain.
“Hosting a round of the Dakar Challenge as part of the South African Cross Country Series is fantastic,” says SACCS CEO Archie Rutherford. “Thanks to Toyota’s sponsorship, any of our national competitors now stand a chance of winning free entry to the Dakar – a truly amazing prize.”
Toyota’s own crews, campaigning as the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team, will not be eligible to win the Dakar Challenge, as the event is open only to privateers, who have not taken part in the Dakar Rally in the past. This will certainly not dampen the highly professional team’s motivation to win the Desert Race.
“Both Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter are chomping at the bit, waiting for the cross country season to start,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “The first round – the Lichtenburg 400 on 31 March and 1 April – is just a couple of weeks away, but we’re already looking forward to the Desert Race.”
Local fans can look forward to seeing South Africa’s former Dakar winner, Giniel de Villiers, in action on all six rounds of this year’s SACCS. He will be partnered in the car by former champion navigator Dennis Murphy. Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie are the defending double champions, and will offer stiff competition to their teammates.