South Africa hopes to join the World Rally-Raid Championship in 2025, and will take the first step towards making that a reality when the South African Rally-Raid Championship visits Limpopo Province in June for the Waterberg 1000. It is one of seven races on the 2024 SARRC schedule (the Parys 400 is a doubleheader) and billed as a “Zero Event”, intended as an audition to determine if the country is worthy of hosting the W2RC.
The Waterberg 1000 is the only round that is longer than two days, stretching from 21 to 23 June. The inaugural edition took place in 2023 as a season-ending, two-day affair called the Waterberg 400, won by Gareth Woolridge to clinch the title. Race operations and the service park will remain at the Laerskool Koedoeskop school in Thabazimbi, an iron mining town in Limpopo.
With its expanded length, Waterberg will serve as SARRC’s premier round, replacing the TGR 1000 Desert Race. The Desert Race was the largest rally raid in the region, and the 2023 edition returned to its traditional home in neighbouring Botswana for the first time since 2019. Despite not being a World Championship event, it was part of the Road to Dakar programme in which the top performing driver without prior Dakar Rally experience would be guaranteed free registration; Waterberg is likely to assume the slot for 2024, though the Amaury Sport Organisation has yet to confirm this. South Africa is one of two non-W2RC races on the Road to Dakar alongside the Sonora Rally in Mexico, the latter previously on the schedule in 2023.
If Waterberg impresses, South Africa would be the second African country on the World Championship alongside the season-ending Rallye du Maroc in Morocco.
South Africa is a major hotbed for cross-country rally. Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+, which has won three Dakar Rallies and both editions of the W2RC manufacturer’s championship to date, is built by South African company SVR Hallspeed; TGR’s South African arm is an SARRC powerhouse that also regularly competes at the Dakar. Woolridge recently made his Dakar début while 2024 bike runner-up Ross Branch is an eight-time Desert Race winner.
The 2024 calendar was finalised Friday after what SARRC boss Archie Rutherford admitted was a “sluggish decision making process. However, there are countless factors that come into play, and it is important to make the best decisions in the interest of our competitors and our sport.” Besides Waterberg, the only other change from 2023 is that the KwaZulu-Natal race has moved from Eston to Vryheid.
2024 South African Rally-Raid Championship