There was great excitement in the mountains over the weekend when the Motul Retro Roof of Africa returned to the Maluti Lowlands to call back the glorious past of an event enshrined in South African race history. While the real Roof continues as an extreme motorcycle enduro, a group of enthusiasts came together to rekindle the good old car and bike blast around Lesotho and the plans all came to a head when the first Motul Retro Roof went down in great spirit over the weekend.
Sixty-four competitors came under starters orders Saturday morning with a glorious and diverse field lined up and ready to race a challenging but achievable 250km single loop. By the time the dust had settled four hours later, side-by-side duo Hannes and Attie Saaijman (KON/EMD Polaris turbo) were the first four-wheeler home, eight minutes clear of C2 pair David Huddy and Rodney Cook (Navara), with C1 car winners Stefan van Pletzen and Steyn Viviers third in their Zarco V8.
Open class rider Jarryd Coetzee set the fastest time of the day as he rode to a convincing motorcycle win over 200 winner Ryan Pelser (KTM), with Senior winner Milton Slabber third on his Yamaha, ahead of Open class duo Erik Faure (KTM) and Oscar Massango (Husqvarna). Just two seconds split Pre-’99 Vintage Bike top two, Evan Pretorius (Honda CR250) and Gareth Ireland (KTM 250 EXC) in sixth and seventh overall among the motorcycles, with Open lad Shabeer Moosa and Senior duo Andries Lategan (Yamaha) and Sean Koekemoer (KTM) closing off the motorcycle top ten.
Baholo Chimombe (Bombadier) was the first quad home ahead of Makoae Taoana (Suzuki), while JP de Villiers led Johan Dreyer and Jeremy Sanders (Husqvarna) home in the under-1000cc Adventure Bike class. The rest of the two-wheelers rode in the spirit of the Roof of Africa as KTM duo Sechaba Chabeli and Luan Kruger enjoyed the chilled company of Husqvarna national men Ryan Ripley, Taki Bogiages and Iain Pepper, Seniors Marius de Klerk (Yamaha) and JG Haycock and Vintage men Gordon Johnston (Yamaha) and Mark Thompson (Kawasaki).
Typical Roof of Africa tales of woe abounded at the post-race party as the stragglers compared notes about how they earned that ever-important Roof of Africa Finisher’s badge. Henri Zermatten (Ford Ranger) and Keith and Andrew Makenete (BAT) were among the car crews making excuses, while several two-wheelers also had yarns to spin, including Open class riders Nico Grobler, Bertus Bekker, and Besele Malakane, Seniors Molamu Morojele, Hannes Rootman, Marius Immelman, Leonard Cremer, and Ernie Bredenhann and Junior lads Nkhasi Matete and Nkhoakhoa Thabane.
There were, of course, a good few excuses doing the rounds too, pertaining to why so many Motul Retro Roof of Africa finisher’s badges must wait another year to be presented. Among the more colourful came via John Moore and Buks Carolin, who listed many issues contributing to their Chenowth’s retirement from the car race lead to leave multiple former SA off-road champion Carolin still searching for his elusive first ever Roof of Africa car win. Fellow car crews Hennie van der Merwe and Lein Pelser, Deon Moens and Frank de Greef (Sandmaster) and Brendan Martin (WPP) joined them for an early shower.
Senior lass Hanlie Ackermann, 200 riders Desire Julyan, Kyle Potgieter, Sello Kotele and Moshate Letlela, Open entries Dawie and Dieter de Wet, Wesley Liversage, Peter Andrews, Richard Carey, David Salley and quad trio Paul Chomse, Riaan Dique and Mokone Leboya were also among those expounding theories behind their emerging among the first Retro Roof casualties.
Most competitors, whether they won or retired or just drove or rode along among the horde of Sweep vehicles behind, however had one thought in common — to a man or a woman, they will be back to fight for another Motul Retro Roof of Africa finisher’s badge as one and all heralded the rejuvenated race as a great success…