By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Zimbabwe off-road motorcycle racer Graeme Sharp was impressive in his bid to qualify for Dakar Rally 2020 after he finished overall 16th out of about 45 riders at the gruelling Sonora Rally in Mexico.
The target for Sharp in Mexico was to complete the five day race challenge that concluded on Friday and he did just that thus enhancing his chances of making it to Dakar.
Sharp is looking to become the first Zimbabwean to represent the country at the Dakar Rally in the bikes category next year.
The athlete now needs to complete in the Merzouga Rally which begins in Morocco tomorrow to achieve his dream.
“I am very pleased with my performance in what was a tough, technical and demanding race through some beautiful terrain in Mexico,” Sharp told NewsDay, while in Dubai on his way to Morocco.
“The first two days were especially challenging — over 500km of various forms of dunes and some bad luck early on. I had a big crash early on in day two, popping my cameback and putting me on the back foot hydration wise and leaving me pretty battered up.
“The second part of the race was much better and I started to find my groove – the terrain became more familiar and the navigation got trickier which is something I enjoy and used it to my advantage.
“By day 5 I was sitting inside top 10 for the stage and managed to avoid any issues on what was a navigational challenge. Crossing the finish line and putting another race in the bank feels great,” he said.
After his performance in the Sonora Rally, Sharp pumped up for the Morocco race.
The target remains to finish the race and achieve his dream of competing at the premier global rally — Dakar.
“It will be a really good achievement to have finished two world class events of this magnitude back to back and I am grateful for the opportunity to chase this dream and put Zimbabwe on the world map,” the 32-year-old rider said.
“In Morocco, I will be looking to learn as much as I can from the team. I will be riding alongside Ross Branch (Dakar 2019 Rookie Winner) as well as Kenny Gilbert (2nd place Dakar Rookie) and these guys are super talented and have a wealth of experience so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to learn from them and hone my skills. I will be more focused on riding a smooth problem free race and getting to the end in order to qualify for Dakar 2020,” he added. The Merzouga Rally will run from March 27 to April 6.