Collin Matiza Sports Editor
HE went, he saw and he conquered.
Young Daiyaan Manuel wrote his own piece of history when he became the first Zimbabwean motocross rider to win a national championship title in South Africa at the weekend. Daiyaan, a nine-year-old Grade Four pupil at St John’s Preparatory School in Harare, was basking in glory on Saturday after he clinched the 2014 South African National Motocross Championship 50cc pro class title after some superb riding during the final round of the tough six-round series at Syringa Park in Muldersdrift, just outside Johannesburg.
Manuel went into Saturday’s final round of the series sitting pretty at the top of the South African National Motocross Championship 50cc pro standings with 236 points, 19 ahead of second-placed Nate McLellan of South Africa and he needed just two wins in this race meeting to walk away with the title at Syringa Park.
And the talented, young Zimbabwean rider did just that by romping to victory in the two heats that he competed in at the tough Syringa Park motocross track.
Saturday morning saw a pumped-up Manuel qualifying in second place during practice but his bike gave him a few problems before it was fixed by his father, trainer and manager, Junior, going into the first heat in front of more than 3 000 South African motocross fans who thronged Syringa Park to watch this final event of their national championship series this year.
In the first heat, Daiyaan “rode like a demon” as he led the field of more than 15 riders from start to finish before he came back after lunch for the second heat in which he once again led from the start through to the halfway mark though the race had a crash due to back markers.
So determined was Daiyaan to win this race that he picked himself up and fought valiantly for the next five minutes plus a lap to go to finish first and the 2014 South African National Motocross Championship’s 50cc pro title was in the bag for the gifted young Zimbabwean rider.
And Daiyaan punched the air with delight when he went past the chequered flag and could not hide his excitement after this remarkable feat for him.
“I’m so happy with my racing today! I’m just happy that I came first in the 50cc pro class, and thanks to today’s top podium positions, I won the South African 50cc Championship. It was also my first time riding my 65 in South Africa and I finished fifth overall in this class.
“I would just like to say well done to my other competitors and a huge thank you to my family, friends and sponsors,” a jubilant Daiyaan said after Saturday’s event at Syringa Park.
His father, Junior, was also over the moon.
“I’m very proud of him because it had been a long, hard year for us but it’s all paid off. In fact, Daiyaan feels like he’s on top of the world right now . . . He’s done us and the nation proud,” Junior Manuel said.
Daiyaan has now joined the “Elite Club” of two other Zimbabwean motor racing athletes — Axcil Jefferies and Shaun Whyte — who have won national titles in South Africa before.
Jefferies was crowned the South African national junior karting champion about five years ago before he ventured into the tough world of Formula Two racing, which is one rung behind the world popular Formula One while Whyte won the Superbikes national title in the same country in 2006 before he retired a couple of years ago.
And Whyte, who is now the chairman of the Bogwheelers Club who run the motorcycling sport of motocross in Zimbabwe, was among the first people to congratulate young Daiyaan for winning the 50cc pro national title in South Africa at the weekend.
“I honestly think that he (Daiyaan) is a very talented youngster and to be beating the South Africans in their own home soil is very, very good I think. A lot of South African parents give their kids some private school lessons at home so that they can ride and practice more but you put somebody like Daiyaan, who’s travelled more than 1 200km, to beat them there is quite a phenomenal achievement . . .There’s nobody who comes near him.
“Daiyaan is just a good youngster who is so meek and humble. He always comes to you to say ‘hello’. He is among the current crop of talented young Zimbabwean motocross riders who I personally think have got a very bright future in this demanding and exciting sport,” Whyte said.
And after winning this year’s national 50cc pro title in South Africa at the weekend, Daiyaan is now expected to compete in the upcoming first-ever Monster Energy Supercross Africa on November 1 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
And this is another huge opportunity for Daiyaan to showcase his motocross riding skills as the organisers are estimating an audience of around 30 000 spectators at this big international Supercross event which will bring together top riders from the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the hosts South Africa.
His hope is that this experience, along with the progress he has made in the 65cc class, will push him even harder towards his current goal, which is to compete in a Junior Worlds event, depending on his progress in the 65cc along with time and resources.
Daiyaan’s exploits on the track this year have not gone unnoticed as they have also attracted the attention of Germany’s GeBe Foundation who are looking at taking him to race in Germany next year with a number of other young, talented Zimbabwean riders such as Big “BJ” Chitima, Ryan Masimo and Kuda Mhene (Jnr), who competed in the final round of the Ugandan National Championship in the East African country at the weekend.
The GeBe Foundation are a non-profit organisation which promotes sport in Africa and through their director Bernd Wulffen, who is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, they have indicated that they would like to enter into a partnership with the Bogwheelers Club of Zimbabwe which will see them taking promising young motocross riders from this country to race in Germany under AMC Zirndorf Club.
Wulffen told The Herald from his base in Cape Town last week that he would like to visit Zimbabwe in December to meet officials of the Bogwheelers Club and the parents of the riders who would be involved in this project.
“My plan is to visit Harare on my way back from Germany in mid-December . . . and I can assure the parents of the young riders that everything will work out in their favour. I will give these motocross boys the best opportunity they can get in Germany,” Wulffen said.
Unfortunately, another young, talented Zimbabwean rider Tanya Muzinda will miss out this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of riding in Germany next year under AMC Zirndorf as The Herald understands that her contract with her United States-based manager Stefy Bau of Italy prohibits her from competing internationally under any club from outside Zimbabwe.