The Dakar Challenge has provided a major boost for the RFS Endurance Race which kick starts a revamped Donaldson Cross Country Championship in Harrismith on March 27 and 28. The Dakar Challenge offers the winners of the event a free entry into the 2016 Dakar Rally in South America, and in recent seasons has been run in conjunction with the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana. In a departure from the norm, the organisers of the Dakar Rally have agreed to link the challenge with the opening event of the South African championship.
SANORA chief executive officer Richard Schilling said: ‘Rescheduling the Dakar Challenge to early in the season will allow the winners additional time to raise the necessary sponsorship to compete in South America. The challenge is further proof of South Africa’s expanding influence on the Dakar Rally, and provides us with another opportunity to further enhance South Africa’s worldwide reputation.’ South African teams again performed with distinction on this year’s Dakar Rally. Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) were once again on the podium, Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Toyota Imperial Hilux) finished 16th with Johan Van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (KEC Nissan Navara) 31st and Jurgen and Daniel Schroder (PS Laser Nissan Navara) 38th.
This year also saw a record number of South African built or designed vehicles taking part in the South American classic. These were made up of 18 Toyota Hilux models, three Nissan Navaras, two Renault Duster’s and one Ford Ranger. A revamped calendar of events this year sees a later start and earlier finish to the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. This accommodates a growing South African presence in the Dakar Rally, and local teams entering the South American race will now have longer preparation and recovery periods.
Schilling added: ‘We are proud of the South African performances on this year’s Dakar, but some teams missed the end of the domestic season because they were preparing for South America. A later start and earlier finish to the Donaldson series will ease the pressure on teams wanting to compete in the Dakar Rally next year.’
Photo: Privateers Johan Van Staden and Mike Lawrenson finished 31st in this years Dakar Rally
Photo Credit: Terence Marsh