|South Africa is about to send a select group of adventure-seekers into the heart of the Sahara Desert for the 2019 Merzouga Rally.|
The iconic event will take place in Morocco from 31 March to 5 April. For almost a decade it has tested the endurance of elite competitors and served as a springboard for rookie riders. For many the Merzouga Rally also presents the unique opportunity to secure a ticket to the ultimate desert race – the 2020 Dakar Rally.
A rider that has jumped at the opportunity is South Africa’s very own Kirsten Landman.
As the country’s leading enduro lady, the 27-year old has conquered some of the world’s toughest and most technical terrain. She boasts titles like the first woman to ever complete the gold class of Red Bull Sea to Sky and Roof of Africa, silver class of Red Bull Romaniacs, and the expert class of King of the Hill.
She now has her eyes on a new title to add to her list of firsts, perhaps the most daring of them all – the first African woman to finish the Dakar Rally.
“I feel like everything I’ve experienced and the challenges I’ve faced as a rider has prepared me for this. It’s the most daring thing I’ve ever attempted in my career, but if I don’t try then I’ll always wonder if I could have done it. The first step is qualifying at the Merzouga Rally, and then I’ll take it from there,” said Landman.
|Joining her in Morocco is Southern Africa’s Dakar hero, Ross Branch. The rider made headlines earlier this year when he was crowned the 2019 Dakar Rookie Champion.|
For the first time since the achievement Branch will return to the dunes. While he doesn’t need the Merzouga Rally to qualify for the Dakar 2020, he plans to use the experience to further his career in Rally racing.
He explained, “At the very last minute we managed to get everything together so I can ride the Merzouga Rally. Although I don’t need to compete in this Rally to qualify for Dakar 2020, I need the practice and the experience going forward for a possible Rally racing career.”
|The Merzouga Rally is by no means reserved for the elite, and following a special qualification two non-professional South African riders have also been sent to Morocco.|
At the 2018 KTM Adventure Rally in Swaziland, riders were given a chance to prove excellent machine control, navigational skills and competent mechanical ability across multiple days. The top two riders were given the opportunity to compete in an exclusive class at the Merzouga Rally called ‘the Ultimate Race’. The prize includes a fully supported KTM 790 Adventure R, flights, accommodation, meals, entry fees, and a full race service.
Christiaan Odendaal and Greg Hodgskin are the lucky receivers of this once in a lifetime experience. Like the pros, they will face a marathon stage where no outside assistance is allowed. They will also be treated like KTM Factory riders, and supported on site with a truck and a team of mechanics.
Should Odendaal or Hodgskin win the Ultimate Race category, they get to keep their KTM 790 ADVENTURE R and will receive an all-expenses paid package for two people to see the 2020 Dakar Rally.