By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Toyota won their eighth title on the trot, while motorcycle rider, Ross Branch wrapped up a hat-trick of titles at the gruelling 1,000km Desert Race held over the weekend in Jwaneng, south-west of the capital.
The focus of the victors now shifts to the renowned Dakar Rally, with the Botswana race used as a qualifier. The annual Desert Race attracts top drivers and vehicles from across the continent.
Local rider, Branch has dominated the motorcycle category over the last three editions, while Toyota is unbeaten in the Production Vehicles since 2011.
Branch will make his debut at the Dakar Rally, which runs every January in South America. He will become only the second Motswana to participate at the world-famous race, after Vincent Crosbie in 2017.
"My focus and effort are now on the Dakar Rally," Branch said at the end of the weekend race.
"The Desert Race is extremely challenging. It was fast and technical. I had to really work hard this year," Branch said.
Toyota's Ginnel de Villiers of South Africa is also on his way to Dakar after a triumphant return to the Botswana Desert Race.
"It was rough and fast. It is always good to win. Toyota started on pole position on Saturday after winning gut e qualifying race on Friday.
De Villiers and his navigator, Dennis Murphy suffered a puncture on Sunday, but that did not hold them back, as they still powered to another famous win. It was a 1-2 for Toyota as Johan and Werner Horn
were second while Ford failed to finish on Sunday after technical problems.
There were several disappointments on Sunday as a number of drivers failed to finish the race.
Vehicles developed technical faults, while in some instance, drivers ran out of fuel.
Meanwhile, the race was marred by the death of a 20-year-old spectator, who was murdered on Saturday night in Jwaneng.
The victim had travelled from Gaborone to watch the race but was reportedly dragged into a thicket, raped and then murdered, in an incident which left the mining town shell-shocked.