Namibia: 50 Up for Total Tara Rally

One of the longest running sporting events in Namibia, the Total Tara Rally, reaches a special milestone when the 50th edition takes place this weekend.

Three years ago the future of the rally was threatened when main sponsor Total withdrew, but the hard-working organising committee and some smaller sponsors stepped in to ensure its survival, and this year, Total is back as the main sponsor with a contribution of N$150 000.

The rally was first held in 1969 and has taken place every year since then, becoming one of the main rallying events in southern Africa, while also attracting some of the top drivers of the region through the years.

The rally soon became known for its toughness, claiming several casualties each year, and no one could really dominate the event.

South African rallying legends like Sarel van der Merwe, Geoff Mortimer, Roelof Coertzen, Serge Damseaux, and later his son JP Damseaux all went on to win the title twice, as did some of Namibia's top drivers like Laurence Koch, Llewellyn Anthony, Richard Himmel and Gerhard Truter.

It was only in 2016 that South Africa's Japie van Niekerk became the first man to win the rally three times after previous successes in 2013 and 2014.

Van Niekerk has returned for this year's special anniversary event and will once again be amongst the favourites with his navigator Rob Houghton in their Ford Fiesta.

Other favourites include the defending champions of Namibia, Wilro Dippenaar and Riaan van der Westhuizen in their Toyota Auris, with Wilro aiming for his third title; Richard Slamet and Wietz Coetzee in their Subaru Impreza, who won the title in 2015; Jaco Redelinghuys and Dries Booysen in their Toyota Yaris; and Oswaldo Mendes and Kai Naidoo in a Subaru Impreza.

Several other South African teams have also entered for this year's event, including Guy Bottrill and Simon Vacy-Lyle in a Toyota Etios; John Clift and Derek Clift in a Toyota Hilux; and Hendrik de Klerk and Hendrik Roets in a Nissan Navara.

To add allure to the 50th anniversary, the organisers decided to change the route, with the start having taken place in Swakopmund on Thursday, while the drivers will wind their way down to Windhoek on Friday, with the rally finishing at the Tony Rust Race Track on Saturday afternoon.

The rally will cover a total distance of 521km and will consist of 21 special stages.

Some of Friday's stages will be held in Kransberg, Karibib and Wilhelmstal, and will be concluded with two super stages at the Tony Rust Race Track at about 18h30.

Saturday's stages include Rocky Crest, Omeya and Prosperita, before the final stage at the Tony Rust Race Track at about 12h30.

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