All eyes on Ross

Gazette reporter

Off road motorcycle riders are looking forward to the gruelling Botswana desert on 22, 23 and 24 June when they compete in the Toyota Kalahari Desert Race 1000 (TDR 1000) which forms the third and fourth rounds of the 2018 SA National Cross-Country Motorcycle Championship.
The TDR 1000 will see competitors take on the best part of a thousand kilometres and the event will also include the TDR 1000 Desert Adventure for motorcycle and quad riders who want to be part of the adventure, but who are not participating in the national championship series.
All the action will be taking place from the Jwaneng Sports Complex and while the annual TDR 1000 is about man and machine, thousands of spectators and supporters are expected to attend the biggest sporting event in Botswana.
Many would like to wear the King of Desert crown, but it will especially be local Botswana rider, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who will have his eyes on a third consecutive win in front of his home crowd. Botswana is Branch’s training ground and a hat trick of victories will look good on his racing CV as he is planning to compete in the 2019 Dakar Rally.
After the first two rounds of the 2018 National Cross-Country Championship, the Botswana rider is second on the overall standings and trails his arch rival, Kenny Gilbert (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) by a single point while they are sharing the same amount of points in the OR1 (Open) Championship. Gilbert, who has also entered the Dakar Rally, has just returned from Portugal where he participated in a two-day event to gain valuable navigational experience and as he had to settle for the runner-up result at the TDR 1000 last year, he will be determined for a victory this year. Although both riders will have to play it safe to avoid any injuries, this might turn into a nail biting affair in the desert.
As the faster routes suit the bigger motorcycles, one can expect to see the names of more OR1 riders at the front. Fellow Botswana rider, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) would like to show off some silverware in front of his home crowd while Branch’s team-mate, Louw Schmidt, will hope for a good result as he had a miserable start to the season. Like Gilbert, Branch, Schmidt and Lobjoit, Jaycee Nienaber (Holeshot Husqvarna) can also count on his desert racing experience as can Charan Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha), who is currently third in OR1 and podium results are possible for both riders.
The TDR 1000 will start on Friday, 22 June at 11:30 with a 35km time-trial that will determine the starting order for Saturday. The action will start at 07:00 on Saturday, 23 June when the first motorcycle competitor departs on the 198km loop that they will have to complete twice to finish at the Jwaneng Sports Complex. On Sunday, the racing action will again start at 07:00 with riders taking on a 223km loop which they will have to do twice for a total race distance of 877 kilometres over three days.
The race will be spectator friendly with various spectator points and fan parks along the route. The race headquarters as well as the start, finish and designated service park will be at the Jwaneng Sports Complex. Spectators and crews can once again expect an extremely exciting Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 with lots of motorcycle and car racing action.