Rautenbach for 2017 Dakar Rally

HARARE - Two-time African Rally champion Conrad Rautenbach has rekindled his love with motorsport after he came out of semi-retirement to start competing again.

The Zimbabwean driver took part in the later stages of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championships and last weekend participated in the 2016 Dubai International Rally.

Rautenbach had temporarily hung his helmet to help his father, Billy, also a former rally driver, run the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project, seen as one of Africa’s largest ethanol projects.

However, a chance to compete in the 2017 Dakar Rally seems to have drawn him back to the sport that brought him fame when he won the African Rally Championship twice, in 2007 and 2011.

In the 2017 Dakar Rally, the 32-year-old will be the third team member under the Toyota South Africa Motors and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa.

The iconic event widely regarded as the ultimate test of man and machine will be held from January 2 to 14.

It will go through three countries (Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina) for a total of nearly 9 000 kilometres, of them, 4 000 will be timed.

The Zimbabwean driver, who competed in the World Rally Championship for the Citroen Junior Team, will be among a total of 316 participants from 59 nationalities and nine women which form part of the list of registered competitors.

The 10 000-kilometre route from Asuncion to Buenos Aires, via La Paz, covers some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet.

Making life even more uncomfortable for competitors and their vehicles — will be the scorching South American summer temperatures and nosebleed-inducing altitudes.

Rautenbach tested the waters in the 2016 Dubai International Rally which featured a bumper entry list of over 70 cars, buggies, motorcycles and Quads.

According to Saluki Motosport, a British-owned and operated garage based in Dubai, Rautenbach arrived in the UAE from Zimbabwe to enter the event in Saluki Motorsport’s Yamaha YXZ1000R desert race specification buggy.

“On the first stage Conrad, having never driven in the dunes before, achieved an incredible 4th overall which showcased his skills of handling the Yamaha,” Saluki Motorsport posted on their Facebook wall last week.

“Unfortunately, cresting on top of a particularly difficult dune put paid to a podium finish and he dropped to 10th overall.

“However, it gave Conrad the opportunity to experience competitive dune driving before he joins Nasser Al Attiyah and Giniel De Villiers as the third team member under the Toyota South Africa Motors and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa banner in the Dakar 2017 rally.

“We at Saluki Motorsport will be watching Conrad’s progress in South America next month!”

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