READY TO RIDE: A biker rides during the 2016 Dakar rally in Bolivia. 2017 will see three 'rookies' making their debut for SA.Image: Dakar.com
Cape Town - In January this year Yamaha Team Rhide SA quad rider Brian Baragwanath kept South African Dakar followers on the edge of their seats with a unbelievably gutsy ride on his Yamaha Raptor 700, winning three stages on route to a well-deserved third position overall in the quad class.
His Team Rhide mate Edward Barbier finished 21st overall in the class, but the third rider in the team, George Twigge, had to withdraw in stage 8 of the event. Kobus Potgieter, the only local entrant in the motorcycle category, completed the gruelling race, finishing in 80th position after starting 91st.
Sadly, Baragwanath, Twigge and Barbier will not be returning to South America to participate in the 2017 event, and neither will Potgieter.
3 SA biker 'rookies' to root for
However, three South African Dakar “rookies”, David Thomas (#76), Joey Evans (#132) and Walter Terblanche (#136) will have their baptism of fire in the motorcycle category of the 2017 event.
Thomas, a former mountain bike and cycling champion, will be competing on a Husqvarna FR 450.
“I've been following the Dakar for the last 15 years and had always dreamt of doing it. Turning forty, it had become a goal. Initial I wanted to do the Dakar with my brother, but he sadly passed away in 2003 in a car accident and I will therefore do the race in his memory.”
He says his main challenge in the race will be navigation.
“You can only ride as fast as you can navigate. On my first Dakar I'm not going to be a hero. I have no goals in terms of position. I just want to finish. Maybe in 2018 I'll have higher expectations.”
For Joey Evans, participating in the Dakar isn’t just a question of passion; it's a story of determination. He started riding bikes at the age of 26, switching from motocross to freestyle riding, then to enduro and off-road races.
He started considering doing the Dakar, but on the 13th of October 2007 he suffered a big fall during the Heidelberg Hare Scramble which left him paralysed from the chest down.
He spent several months in a wheel chair and over a year hardly walking. Yet, two years after his accident he was back on a bike. What had been a dream slowly became reality and ten years after his accident Evans will be on the start line for the Dakar on his KTM. This in itself is already a victory.
“My major difficulty is that my body isn’t strong. My legs don’t work properly and it’s really hard to pick up my bike. The bottom part of my body doesn’t sweat and that’s a challenge in hot environments.
“However, I have only one goal; to reach the finish.”
When Walter Terblanche is not spending time on an oil rig off the shores of Angola, he is on his bike, riding enduro or training in Swaziland and The Netherlands.
He has always dreamt of doing the Dakar and now finally has the opportunity to participate in the toughest of all rallies as part of the Bas Dakar Van den Velden Motoren team on a KTM 450.
Terblanche has spent most of the year training for the challenge and he feels he is now mentally and physically prepared for the race. “I'm going to try and push as hard as I can and finish strong,” he said. “However, I will ride steady and take it day by day.”