KALAHARI BOTSWANA DESERT RACE

Solid performance needed in iconic 1000

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Castrol Team Toyota is heading to the spectacular Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race this weekend, and is aiming to bank as many points as possible. While this may be their aim during any race, the fact that the "Desert", as it has become known, offers double championship points, makes it doubly important for the team to put in a solid performance.

"Because of the extreme length of this race, it is classed as a marathon event - and that means double points on offer," says Team Principal Glyn Hall. "We'll be running the Hilux in the same specification as we did on the last race and as such we're not expecting any surprises from the vehicle."

After three rounds of the championship, Castrol Team Toyota driver Anthony Taylor, with co-driver Dennis Murphy, is tied with Ford driver Manfred Schröder at the top of the leaderboard. Teammates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie are currently tied for fourth in the production vehicle standings.

"The Desert can make or break a championship. If you are down after a couple events, this is the place to make up some points," reckons Hall. "We would obviously love a win on our home event, but realistically we need to put as many vehicles as possible on the podium to ensure maximum points earned." "

In addition to the two Castrol Team Toyota Hiluxes, the team will also be fielding a third Castrol Hilux in identical spec. Brazilian veteran Reinaldo Varela (54) will be piloting, with his regular navigator Gustavo Gugelmin beside him. Valera has competed in several hundred cross-country events globally, and won the Baja Italy in 2013, but this will be his first appearance at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race.

This year's Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race will be based around the Jwaneng area, 170 km North-West of the Botswana capital of Gaborone. The move to a new part of the country was made at the request of the Botswana Tourism Organisation, as the race offers communities a significant income boost, and the Organisation wants to see more communities benefit from this event.

The result is that teams will face new racing territory for the third time this year as the first two rounds of the racing calendar -- the RFS 450 and Toyota Dealer 450 -- were new events, with only the Nkomazi 450 (Round 3), having featured before.

"The new terrain levels the playing field a lot," continues Hall, "and you sometimes need a bit of luck on your side when heading into virgin territory. The area around Jwaneng is very dry and sandy, with lots of tree stumps lurking in the bushes."

The "Desert" was first run in 1975, and moved to Botswana in 1991 and this year marks the 33rd year of Toyota sponsoring the event. The race gets under way with the prologue, to determine the start-order for the main event, on June 27th. The race itself is contested over two days, each featuring two loops of around 200 km, and finishes on Sunday, June 29th.

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