Roof of Africa rally roars into life

‘MAKERESEMESE LETUKA

MASERU – More than 400 riders will tough it out when one of Africa’s most iconic Hard Enduro events returns on November 11 to 12 – the Motul Roof of Africa was twice postponed as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The race kicked-off Thursday morning at the heart of the capital, Maseru, with the traditional Round-the-Houses segment to wild cheering from masses of Basotho enthusiasts who had braved the cold rainy morning to enjoy the spectacle.

All competitors will then head to Lekhalong la Baroa (Bushman’s Pass) where Bronze and Iron Class riders will take part in a time trial to establish the starting order and times for Day 2 of the rally. To celebrate its return, a new Iron Class has been added to give lesser experienced riders the chance to experience the mountains of Lesotho from the saddle. The new class will be run alongside the established Gold, Silver and Bronze Classes.

Event organisers of Live Lesotho have refined the format to achieve a perfect balance between challenging elements and striving to ensure the safety of riders and their support crews. This will see each rider limited to just five support crew members. The Lesotho Off Road Association Public Relations Officer, Lehlohonolo Taele, told Public Eye that riders have this year joined the event in large numbers and that “this shows they have been longing for the event, they all seem to be prepared and ready, this year we have 406 riders.”

The 2021 Roof of Africa winner, Wade Young, said he is very happy to be back and hoping to keep his tittle more especially because this year it is a bit relaxed in terms of covid restrictions.“I am hoping for a competitive ride as well,” he said. One of the spectators, Mavis Bloss, from South Africa, said she is always looking forward to the race. “I see these guys very happy, fit and so determined to win this race. They are in perfect condition. They are super-fit. It should be a very interesting race.”

The Roof of Africa had its humble beginnings in 1967 when Bob Phillips, a Roads Engineer working in Lesotho, approached the Sports Car Club in Johannesburg and asked them if they would like to run a race over the worst road in the world that he had just finished building. The Roof of Africa quickly gained in popularity and it had become sponsored by The Star newspaper further promoting what was fast becoming a legend. In 1969 motorcycles starting competing against the cars and the event was soon split into two categories.

The event continued to grow through the 70’s 80’s and 90’s and the legend continued to grow. Up until 1982 the event ran right across Lesotho with overnight stops in either Matatiele or Sani Pass. From 1982 the event has been contained within the borders of Lesotho. The Roof of Africa was also attracting overseas interest and regular participation from overseas competitors. By the year 2000 Off Road car racing had become a highly specialised sport with big Manufacturer involvement. Single vehicles were now costing multimillion Maloti and the Roof became “too tough” for them and the controlling federation under pressure from manufacturers decided to drop cars from the calendar.

This was opposed by 90 percent of the car competitors but were overruled by the manufacturers who had taken subtle control of the sport, the cars did return for three more events from 2004 to 2006 and were run as two day events. However, this signalled a rebirth for the Roof of Africa with record motorcycle entries being received worldwide, Hard Enduro or Extreme Enduro has become increasingly popular and the Roof became known as the mother of hard enduro. However, in 2019 the cars are back and will race together with other categories of competitors who wish to experience the adventure racing in Lesotho has to offer.

 

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