By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Zimbabwean off-road motorcycle rider Graeme Sharp has stepped up preparations for the 2020 Dakar Rally by competing in the fifth annual Yokohama Sonora Rally, which is currently underway in Mexico.
The five-day event staged in an incredible desert region and modelled around the Dakar Rally, began on Monday and ends Friday.
Sharp, who left the country for Sonora on Thursday last week, had a decent start to the event, was placed 29th out of 45 riders on the provisional standings at the end of the first stage that stretched from San Luis Río Colorado to Salina on Monday.
The Sonora is the first event of the year for the 32-year-old rider, who is also set to compete in Morocco’s Merzouga Rally, which will run from March 27 to April 6.
Merzouga is the official and final Dakar qualifier.
Speaking from Mexico, Sharp laid bare his objectives.
“Mainly here at Sonora, the objective is to get back into the groove. Experience is what I am after and Sonora has the most amount of dune to date so it’s good to get some practice before the step up next month in Merzouga,” he told NewsDay Sport.
“It’s all about building the challenge with longer rallies, trickier navigation and then more distances. So like a marathon, you would progress over time as you train more and so the same principle applies here,” added the former Falcon College student.
Sharp was scheduled to take part in the second stage of the Sonora Rally, a 240km route, the longest special stage of the event, running from La Salina to the beach city of Puerto Peñasco, last night.
Stage three of the event that has drawn competitors from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, Italy, Holland and Zimbabwe is on, later today.
A number of corporates, including NL Design, Roost KTM, Mira Active Wear, Padenga, SawPower, STIHL, Future Water Bars, Solgar RSA, Bad Rabbit Studio and Tiran Logistics have partnered with the athlete to make his Dakar 2020 dream a reality.