BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
GRAEME Sharp’s dream to become the first Zimbabwean to represent the country at the Dakar Rally in the motorbike category came true after he managed to complete the Merzouga Rally in Morocco on Friday to qualify for next year’s Dakar Rally.
It has been a hectic couple of months for the athlete, who did well to finish an impressive 15th at the Sonora Rally in Mexico before the Morocco event.
Two-time African Rally champion driver Conrad Rautenbach has flown the country’s flag up high at the Dakar Rally, making his debut in 2017.
Sharp understands that a lot of work still has to be done for him to achieve his goal at the premier global rally event next year.
“It’s a great feeling and a significant step forward in the journey. At the same time it’s a reminder that much needs to be done and the planning really steps up now. The real commitment towards sponsorship and fundraising can kick off with certainty now,” he told Standardsport from Morocco.
“It’s been a gruelling 12 months so far into a two-year project. It’s been a fantastic experience with lots of small milestones and progressive steps forward that build off the last.
“I’ve met some great people and been pushed out of my comfort zone and faced tough challenging moments in between it all — that’s what makes the journey worthwhile,” he added.
The Merzouga Rally, a step up from Sonora with harsher, longer distances and more challenging technical terrain, was the final Dakar 2020 qualification event.
Sharp started in 67th out of 80 after the first day and managed to finish the race 39th overall. He was able to move up five to eight places up per day during the course of the event.
“The big challenge now is sponsorship and fundraising. With a guaranteed entry, this process becomes more certain and hopefully more appealing to would-be sponsors.
The Dakar Rally, which has been staged in South America since 2009, will now be held in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.