Kalahari race: 40 years of gruelling off-roading

Toyota Kalahari racer
READY FOR 1000 DESERT MILES COMING: Toyota’s entry for the 2016 Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race Image: Quickpic


The 2016 Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race – Round 3 of the South African Cross-Country Racing championship – will be run from June 24-26. It’s an event steeped in history.

The Roll of Honour includes legendary names in South African motorsport.

Legendary names in South African motorsport are among the winners of this gruelling race that was from 1975-79 called the TransKalahari. In 1980 new sponsors took over and from 1981-90 was run in the Vryburg area. It moved to Botswana in 1991 then the following year came another change when Motorsport SA split the off-road championship into Special and Production vehicle categories with two winners instead of the previous one.


From 1991 until the move to Kumakwane in 2010 the race started from high profile venues in the Botswana capital, Gaborone. The route primarily ran through the north-eastern part of the country with an overnight break at Mantshwabisi before heading back to the finish in Gaborone.

That ended in 2004 when the event moved to the west, around Kumakwane and Molopolole. Rapid growth and commercialisation of the Gaborone CBD brought more change in 2010 and race HQ and the start/finish moved to Kumakwane on the outskirts of the city but even further changes were to come…

In 2014, at the request of Botswana Tourism which wanted other communities to benefit from the race, it was moved to Jwaneng, home to the world’s biggest diamond mine.

Over the past 24 years veteran South African cross-country and rally navigator Richard Leeke topped the what was now called the Toyota 1000 Desert Race Roll of Honour. Their closest driving rivals were South African champions Apie Reyneke (killed in a helicopter crash in 2015) and Hannes Grobler – each won five times.


Robin Houghton’s four wins with Reyneke put him one ahead of other multiple winners Dennis Murphy and Rob Howie alongside Duncan Vos in 2012 and Leeroy Poulter in 2015.

Drivers with multiple wins in the Production Vehicle category include Duncan Vos (4), Neil Woolridge and Anthony Taylor (three each) and Kassie Coetzee (2). Woolridge won SA championships on two and four wheels and his three Botswana wins were variously in a Nissan Sani, Mitsubishi Pajero and Ford Ranger.

Among the Special Vehicle competitors, Franz Czepek and his won – also named Franz – top the victory list with four wins a hat-trick from 1997-9 and again in 2001.

Buks Carolin, Shameer Variawa and now chief executive of the SA National Off-Road Association Siegfried Rousseau are next on the list with Carolin winning with his brother Richard in 1995. Atang Makgekgenene won in 2004 and 2005 but 2008-10 belonged to Variawa and Rousseau.


Other father/son winners are Nick and Ryan Harper (2006), Kallie and Quintin Sullwald (2007 and 2011) and Herman and Wichard Sullwald in 2013, the latter becoming the first competitor to win as driver and co-driver when he and father Herman won the second heat of the race in 2014.

After the win by Reyneke/Houghton in 1999 the event was dominated by Nissan teams under team manager Glyn Hall: eight in a row from 2002-09. Toyota had to wait more than a decade for its next win: Vos and Howie broke the drought in 2012 with Hall now at the helm of the Toyota Hilux factory team.

Since then the balance of power has shifted back to Toyota which went through last season unbeaten in the championship. Taylor and Murphy won in 2013 and 2014 and in 2015 shared wins with Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the two heats.

Down the years the Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, the only marathon on the annual calendar, has produced triumph and heartbreak with high drama often around the next corner. The race almost always produces a sting in its tail – 2016 is likely to be the same.


1991 Klaus Degener/Derrick Pinnoy (Chenowth)

Production Vehicles

1992 Kassie Coetzee/Richard Leeke (Toyota); 1993 Kassie Coetzee/Richard Leeke (Toyota);
1994 Apie Reyneke/Lukas Dreyer (Toyota Land Cruiser)
1995 Apie Reyneke/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 Alfie 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 Heat 1 – Anthony Taylor / Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux); Heat 2 – Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux)
2015 Heat 1 Leeroy Poulter / Rob Howie; (Toyota Hilux)  Heat 2 Anthony Taylor / Denis Murphy (Toyota Hilux)

Special Vehicles

1992 Craig Hopkinson/Martin Spencer (VW)
1993 John Lambert/Eric Scholtz (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 Czpeke snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco)
1999 Franz Czepek snr/Franz Czepek jnr (Raceco
2000 Mark Corbett/Juan Mohr (Jimco); 2001 Franz Czepek snr/jnr (Raceco)
2002 Greg /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 Heat 1 – Laurence du Plessis/Gielie le Roux (Zarco); Heat 2 – Wichard Sullwald/Hermann Sullwald (Porter);
2015 Heat 1 Evan Hutchison/Dannie Stassen (BAT) Heat 2 Evan Hutchison and Dannie Stassen (BAT)

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