BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Rally bike racer Graeme Sharp became the first Zimbabwean to finish the famed Dakar Rally at the conclusion of the gruelling endurance event in Saudi Arabia last week.
Sharp achieved a dream he has been chasing for the past three years to complete the race an overall 74th position in his debut appearance.
As expected the event was extremely tough and a week after etching his name in Zimbabwe sporting history Sharp shares his experience at the world’s biggest rally event including witnessing the death of two bikers.
“As my first Dakar I was not sure what to expect, but definitely the nature of the race certainly lived up to its reputation. It’s tough, long, mentally and physically challenging and very dangerous as we saw with the death of two motorcyclists,” Sharp said in an interview with The Sports Hub.
“Despite the extreme cold temperatures, and the long days I certainly never thought about giving up. I went there to get a finish and had made clear in my mind that no matter how challenging it would be I would get it done,” he said.
Sharp was one of the two Zimbabweans hoisting the country’s flag in Saudi Arabia along with driver Conrad Rautenbach who finished an impressive fourth in the SSV class.
But for the 33-year old rider it’s yet to sink in that he actually went to Dakar managed to finish the race.
“It’s a very good feeling, one that hasn’t fully sunk in yet. After a long three years of build up, it’s surreal that it’s all over. But I am grateful to have finished and come out the other side in one piece and in a good position.
“I think in time it will sink in, at the moment I haven’t really fully appreciated the achievement and what it has meant to many people and the country, to fly the flag on the global stage in the most challenging motorsport event there is. And then become the first Zimbabwean to complete the rally, it’s something special,” he said.
The 2020 Dakar Rally bike section registered 147 entrants this year and Sharp did not have the best of starts after finishing the first stage in position 115.
But the rally bike racer gradually improved during the course of the event producing his best ride in Stage 4 where he finished 69th while he achieved position 83th in the final stage.
The Zimbabwean also fell in love with Saudi Arabia as a country.
“It’s a very friendly country, well developed with good infrastructure and welcoming people. The race was extremely well managed with well-oiled logistics and support services. The landscape in Saudi is incredible, especially the areas around Neom. The river beds, valleys and rock formations were incredible as well,” he said.
And after achieving his Dakar dream what is next for Sharp?
“I am not sure at this stage. I will take a couple weeks off and return to normal daily life and then see what opportunities arise. In the meantime I will be sharing my experience with schools, sponsors and the general public at various locations in Harare, Vic Falls and possibly Bulawayo,” he revealed.