The crown jewel of the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) has long been the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race, now known as the TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race. As the only marathon event on the calendar, the ‘Desert’ has been billed as the biggest motorsport event on the African continent, and the iconic race is set to take place again near Upington in the Northern Cape this weekend, from 24-26 June, 2022.
“The Desert Race is one of the key races for us,” says TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “Not only is it the longest race on the calendar, but the terrain in which it is run also closely resembles that of the gruelling Dakar Rally, in which we compete each January.”
This year, the TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race will be run as the second round of the championship, following the cancellation of the Sugarbelt 400, which was set to take place in KwaZulu-Natal last month. The floods that had devastated the area resulted in the cancellation of that race, leaving the teams competing in the SARRC with a longer-than-anticipated break between the opening round and the Desert Race.
For TGRSA, the upcoming event is more than just a key race in terms of Dakar preparation: The race is sponsored by Toyota SA Motors as part of its TGRSA motorsport activities, and as such it represents a home race for the team.
“There is always extra pressure at the Desert Race, but we are hopeful that we’re well-prepared, and we’re looking forward to the event,” continues Hall.
The team will be fielding four Class T1+ Toyota Hilux race cars, with defending national champions, Henk Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings taking command of the first of these. Former champions Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy will also be in action again, while Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen will campaign the third of the team’s cars. The final entry will be in the hands of rally ace Guy Botterill and co-driver Simon Vacy-Lyle, who are fresh from a double victory in the South African National Rally Championship (NRC), where they campaign a locally built and developed Toyota Starlet.
Lategan/Cummings will be fielding a newly-built Toyota Hilux, and the entire team will complete some testing at a private facility near Upington prior to the race. Continues Hall: “It is important for us to validate the new parts and setups we’ve developed during the lull between races, and testing prior to the Desert Race is critical to our efforts.”
The team will be aiming to score as many points as possible during its home event, with added pressure on De Villiers/Murphy after their disastrous opening round of the season. The pair found themselves in a commanding position near the finish of the Mpumalanga 400 earlier this year, but fell foul to a deep mud hole almost within sight of the end of the race. They failed to score meaningful points as a result, with the victory going to teammates Lategan/Cummings instead. Variawa/Stassen ended in second place overall, and will also be in the hunt for a good result this weekend.