Legendary Names Line Up

Some legendary names in South African motorsport are to be found among the list of winners of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in Botswana from June 26 to 28.  The race was run between 1975 and 1979 as the Total Trans Kalahari Road Race and quickly carved a niche for itself on the South African motorsport calendar.  When Total withdrew its backing in 1980 the race was backed by IGI, with Toyota sponsoring the race for the first time in 1981.

Between 1981 and 1990 the Toyota 1000 Desert Race was run in the Vryburg area when the decision was made to move to Botswana in 1991.  The following year saw another change, with Motorsport South Africa deciding to split the off road championship which, from 1981 to 1991 only made provision for one winner, into Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories – with overall winners recognised in each category.  With eight wins spread over three decades veteran South African cross country and rally co-driver Richard Leeke leads the Toyota 1000 Desert Race roll of honour.

Leeke’s first win came in 1984 when he won with the legendary Paddy Driver in a Mitsubishi Pajero.  Subsequent wins came alongside Hannes Grobler (3), Kassie Coetzee (2), Philip Malan and Duncan Vos.  Leeke’s eighth win came in 2007 as a substitute for Ralph Pitchford, who was on overseas duty, when he partnered Duncan Vos to chalk up Nissan’s sixth straight win in Botswana.

Not far behind Leeke in terms of wins are former South African champions Apie Reyneke, who tragically died in a recent helicopter accident, and Grobler each with six victories.  Reyneke won twice with Lukas Dreyer in Nissan entries, and four times with Robin Houghton in Toyota Land Cruisers.  Grobler’s first win was in 1986 with former MSA Off Road Racing commission president Piet Swanepoel.
A firm favourite with the Botswana crowds, Grobler then had to wait until 2002 for his next win, and signed off in 2010 with a popular win with Hennie ter Stege in the RFS BMW X3.  Houghton’s four victories leave him one ahead of Pitchford among co-drivers.  Houghton, like Leeke and Grobler, has since gone on to win the South African rally championship.

Drivers with multiple wins in the production vehicle category include Vos (4), Neil Woolridge (3) and Anthony Taylor with two victories.  Woolridge’s three wins all came in different vehicles – Nissan Sani, Mitsubishi Pajero and Ford Ranger – while Taylor won for the first time with Murphy in 2013 and again in 2014.  Among the special vehicle competitors since 1992 the father and son combination of Franz Czepek senior and Franz junior top the victory list with four wins.
The pair won three times in a row between 1997 and 1999 and again in 2001.  Buks Carolin and Siegfried Rousseau are next on the list with Carolin winning with his brother Richard in 1995, followed up by back to back wins in 2004 and 2005 with Atang Makgekgenene.  Rousseau co-drove for Shameer Variawa with the pair winning three times in a row between 2008 and 2010.

Apart from the Czepeks other father and son winners include Nick and Ryan Harper in 2006, Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in 2007 and 2011 and Herman and Wichard Sullwald in 2013.  Wichard then became the first competitor to win as both driver and co-driver when he and father Herman won the second heat in last year’s race. 
There have been three singleseater winners with Des Tarboton, Rob Wark and Marius Beaurain adding to many memorable Desert Race moments.
The 1985 win by Geoff Mortimer and Spotti Woodhead, in an Audi Quattro, is the stuff of legends while current SANORA chief executive Richard Schilling won in 1990 with Fred Levesque.  Former winners still competing include Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr who won the special vehicle category in 2000, VZ Van Zyl who won with Greg Daus in 2002 and Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen who won in 2012.  Now co-driving for Brett Parker in the Sizanani Plastics Jimco, the veteran van Zyl recently scored his first podium since that 2002 result with a third place finish on the Sugarbelt 450.

After the win by Reyneke/Houghton in 1999 the event was dominated by Nissan teams who won eight times in a row between 2002 and 2009, and Toyota had to wait 13 years for their next win when Vos and Howie broke the drought.  Since then the balance of power has shifted back to Toyota, and they will be looking for a repeat performance this time out.  The Toyota 1 000 Desert Race never fails to produce drama, triumph and heartbreak and there is invariably a sting in the tail.
Who knows what lies ahead this year?

TOYOTA 1 000 DESERT RACE ROLL OF HONOUR

1991 Klaus Degener/Derrick Pinnoy (Chenowth).

Production Vehicles

1992 Kassie Coetzee/Richard Leeke (Toyota Hilux); 1993 Kassie Coetzee/Richard Leeke (Toyota Hilux); 1994 Apie Reyneke/Lukas Dreyer (Toyota Land Cruiser); 1995 Apie Reynecke/Robin Houghton (Toyota Land Cruiser); 1996 Neil Woolridge/Paul Vermaak (Nissan Sani); 1997 Apie Reyneke/Robin Houghton (Toyota Land Cruiser); 1998 Apie Reyneke/Robin Houghton (Toyota Land Cruiser); 1999 Apie Reyneke/Robin Houghton (Toyota Land Cruiser); 2000 Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Mitsubishi Pajero); 2001 Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford); 2002 Hannes Grobler/Richard Leeke (Nissan); 2003 Hannes Grobler/Richard Leeke (Nissan); 2004 (Hannes Grobler/Richard Leeke (Nissan); 2005 Elfie Cox/Ralph Pitchford (Nissan); 2006 Hannes Grobler/Francois Jordaan (Nissan); 2007 Duncan Vos/Richard Leeke (Nissan); 2008 Duncan Vos/Louis Weichelt (Nissan); 2009 Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford (Nissan); 2010 Hannes Grobler/Hennie ter Stege (BMW X3); 2011 Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Ford TDCi); 2012 Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Toyota Hilux); 2013 Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux); 2014 Anthony Taylor / Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux)

Special Vehicles

1992 Craig Hopkinson/Martin Spencer (VW); 1993 John Lambert/Eric Scholtz (Digidoor Porsche); 1994 Rob Wark (Raceco); 1995 Richard/Buks Carolin (Raceco); 1996 Marius Beaurain (Mighty Mag); 1997 Franz Czepek snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco); 1998 Franz Czepek snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco); 1999 Franz Czepek snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco); 2000 Mark Corbett/Juan Mohr (Jimco); 2001 Franz Czepek snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco); 2002 Greg Daus/VZ van Zyl (Raceco); 2003 John Weir-Smith/Geoff Minnitt (Jimco); 2004 Atang Makgekgenene/Buks Carolin (Jimco); 2005 Atang Makgekgenene/Buks Carolin (Jimco); 2006 Nick/Ryan Harper (BAT); 2007 Karl-Heinz/Quintin Sullwald (BAT); 2008 Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Porter); 2009 Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Porter); 2010 Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau); 2011 Karl-Heinz/Quintin Sullwald (BAT); 2012 Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen (BAT); 2013 Herman/Wichard Sullwald (Stryker);  2014 Wichard Sullwald/Hermann Sullwald (Porter).
Photo credit: Keino Davie