It is a dusty but thrilling race, sure to set the heart pounding and provide huge entertainment value, both for those participating as well as for spectators along the route. This is the Botswana 1000 Desert Race, set in the Kalahari Desert.
This arid savannah is home to mobs of meerkats, cackling hyenas, and now, for one weekend each year, a large crowd of off-road racers.
This year’s event, sponsored by Toyota, saw scores of enthusiasts make their way out into the desert to watch the race.
“The Desert Race was really fun and I had a lot of adventure. Being able to meet friends from long time and seeing different car models actually perform and you can see the cars which, let’s say the Nissan and Toyota amongst others, yah being able to see the strength of different car models. So overall the experience was awesome,” said Badisa Mosesane.
The 3-day event begins with a qualifier run and competitors that survive qualification kick off bright and early the next day to drive two loops, each about 230km, broken up by a 15-minute compulsory stop at a service park.
The competition's popularity is growing across Africa, which was host to the Dakar Rally in Senegal, until 2009. The continent is now looking for a replacement for the Dakar Rally and Desert Race may be just the thing that is needed, according to organizers.
"The race has become one of the most iconic races in Africa and a feeder into the famous Dakar Rally Race. The race has had positive socio-economic impact on the local communities through which the route passes,” said Shawn Ntlaile, a member of parliament.
Despite the race experiencing fuel shortages, the challenges were not a hindrance to first time racers who enjoyed every bit.
"It’s the first time for me doing this desert now because I am older, I am 16 now. It was a very good experience, the sand and everything else is something new. But I really enjoyed it a lot, first I came second in my class and seventh overall, but today was a bit of a problem with the fuel but we will sort it out, but overall it was a very good race,” said Dean Lindsay, D & H Engineering Works and Yamaha.
According to Botswana Motor Sport, this year’s events success came largely due to meticulous planning.
"As BTO we are generally happy today that this event has been very successful. For us it has been very successful, there is a lot of work that we do behind the scenes to actually stimulate the interest that you see out there. We start a year in advance to actually start carrying out promotions, activations and actually trying to ensure that people who come to this event respect it for what it is,” said Thabo Brian Dithebe, Chief Executive Officer, Botswana Tourism Organization.
There has been a surge in motor sport and extreme sport action across the continent, with an explosion of middle class urban youth, many of whom who are adventure-driven.
From bungee jumping, shark cage diving, motor drifting, ultra-distance running, mountain biking and canoeing in South Africa to rallying, dirt biking, sky-diving and kiteboarding in East Africa and urban extreme sports as far north as Morocco, extreme sports like the Desert Race are gaining more and more attention on the continent.