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‘Old timer’ to realise 41-year-old Dakar dream

Dream come true: Alexander will realize his Dakar Rally dream in January
As a nine-year-old, James Alexander watched the Dakar Rally for the first time, and felt “I need to be there one day”. Now 41 years later, he is in line to achieve his dream as he prepares to face the unforgiving Dakar Rally terrain, writes Mmegi Sport Correspondent KABELO BORANABI

“I first watched the Dakar in 1979 at the age of nine and was captivated by the challenge of such a great undertaking. I have followed it since then and finally at the age of 50, I have been able to put the resources together to make my first attempt at it. It is difficult to explain just how hard it is to compete in such a mentally and physically demanding event,” Alexander said.

He will be in Saudi Arabia alongside Ross Branch for the Dakar Rally. He will be in the Malle Moto class also known as the ‘bike box’ or Motul Class.

“It is an un-supported class with no team and where we have to maintain the bikes on their own,” he said.

The competitors will be assisted with moving their equipment by organisers and everything will solely depend on them.  The Malle Moto riders can assist each other and this is widely regarded to be the toughest category in the event. 

The Okavango Motor Club biker said he is targeting to finish the race in a respectable position. He said he is aware of the physical demands of the event and has been hard at work preparing for the race in the sandy Ngamiland terrains.

“My main target and focus is to finish well and this in itself would be a major achievement. The preparation is going on very well. I do a lot of riding with a training partner up here in Ngamiland.  I also train, cycle and swim a lot every week. I try to target 400km of off-road riding in a weekend and we are aiming at a smooth and consistent riding style that will help

us to complete Dakar safely and successfully. I am at present concentrating on navigational training as this is a very big part of rally raid racing in particular as we must do both the riding and the navigating.”

The 50-year-old said he draws his inspiration from Branch, who is regarded as the country’s best off-road biker after finishing as the best rookie at the 2019 Dakar edition.  “Ross has stood as my mentor for Dakar 2021, which is huge for me. He is such a valuable source of advice and boosts my self-belief and confidence to face this great race. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his support. Vincent Crosbie supplied me with parts to build my current rally bike and his advice has also been much appreciated,” he said.

Alexander has competed at the 1000KM Toyota Desert Race and he is the reigning champion of the OR5 Class. Last year, he finished 11th at the Kalahari Rally in South Africa, which is now a qualifier for the Dakar Rally.

Alexander also won the Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) National Championship on two successive occasions in 2018 and 2019 in the OR5 class.

“I think that some of us are born with a great love for bikes. It is something that is in our blood from the start and you get a great real sense of freedom riding them.  I started riding at 14 years of age and first raced at 17-years-old in the Zimbabwean Enduro Championship. I’ve been riding on and off in Botswana since 1992, which was when I moved to Maun. I’ve raced here.”

Alexander will be using a FIM International Rally License.




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