As far as racing dreams go, there can be little bigger than racing the Dakar and that is exactly what former triple overall SA Cross Country Motorcycle champion Kenny Gilbert has set out to do. Gilbert ended second in this year’s SA championship by all of a single point and now takes a leap of faith as he heads to Peru to race his Husqvarna at Dakar 2019.
“I have always dreamed of racing the Dakar, but the reality of it just seemed that impossible step too far,” Pretoria racer Kenny explained. “That bug bit too hard though, so I walked the streets, worked on funding through raffles and the like and made a plan and in July my entry was accepted and now my Dakar dream is less than a month away!”
Kenny has been flat out preparing for the Dakar between his race winning national championship campaign, competing in both the Morocco and Merzouga rallies, he also took in a special Dakar navigation school on a Portuguese rally to be best prepared for the challenges of finding that route through those Peruvian dunes.
“This road book thing is not easy, but I really enjoyed the challenge of learning this year and I had such an awesome time in Portugal – that trip really was one for the books! “Navigation is the biggest challenge on the Dakar – especially for rookies like me who have not experienced it before, but I think I’m as well prepared as I can be.”
Another exciting prospect is the personal duel Kenny carries into Peru with fellow Dakar rookie and multiple SA champion, Botswana rival Ross Branch – a tussle that’s likely to see more than one local rider racing Dakar at the level Alfie Cox did in those halcyon years. “My friend Ross is also making his Dakar debut this year and I look forward to taking our brilliant rivalry to another level in Peru – I owe him one after this last season – bring it on!”
Besides Dakar rookie Gilbert, Husqvarna’s Factory Racing team launches a two-bike Dakar attack for Chile’s double FIM Cross-Country World Champion Pablo Quintanilla and American Andrew Short. “I plan to give 100% of my effort each day and every stage to allow me to battle for overall victory,” regular Dakar frontrunner Quintanilla promised, while Short admitted; “I plan to race with the top guys and be as close as possible to the front.”
Kenny Gilbert’s Dakar effort is supported by Husqvarna Motorcycles South Africa, Pepson Plastics, Gilberts Mining and Scottish Cables; Booysens Refrigeration, Liqui Moly, TRP Distributors, Michelin, Renthal, Leatt Brace and FCR Suspension; Imperium Fire proofing, Tell-Radio and Am2PM; DripDrop, Fulvic Health and Velden Motoren. Dakar 2019 runs exclusively in Peru from 6-17 January – follow Kenny and the Husqvarna team’s progress on: www.motorsportmedia.co.za every day.