Collin Matiza Sports Editor
SEASONED campaigner Ashley Thixton will lead a strong 21-member Zimbabwe team to this year’s FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations Championships in Gaborone, Botswana, this weekend. The FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations Championships are an annual event which usually attracts top junior and senior male and female riders from eight countries – Angola, Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This event is held on a rotational basis among these countries during the last weekend of August every year and the last continental competition was staged by Kenya in 2016 but, unfortunately, no rider was able to represent Zimbabwe at that event because of the prohibitive costs of taking a team to the East African country.
But this coming weekend will see the return of Zimbabwean riders at the same motorcycling competition in Gaborone where the country’s reigning champion in the MX1 and MX2 classes Thixton will lead a strong 21-member team that also includes the exciting MX1 biker Jayden Ashwell.
Ashwell, who by far is the best male motocross rider in Zimbabwe at the moment, is back in the fold after having been sidelined for quite a while by injuries before he returned to the track this year where he is competing in the South African National Championship Series.
Ashwell, who is backed by Leopack Transport, Fuchs Silkolene, Musgrave Racing and Centurion Yamaha, is currently sitting in seventh place in the MX1 Standings of this year’s South African Nationals after five rounds of action.
And according to Team Zimbabwe, which was released yesterday by Yasmin Manuel, a member of the Bogwheelers Club who run motocross in this country, Ashwell will be fighting for the top step on the podium in the MX1 Class in Gaborone this weekend together with fellow Zimbabwean Brian MacDonell.
Team captain Thixton, on the other hand, will represent Zimbabwe in the MX2 Class with two other top riders Josh Goby and Jacques du Plessis while one of the country’s most exciting junior bikers Daiyaan “Dee” Manuel will be fighting for the top honours in the 65cc Class with nine-year-old Emmanuel Bako.
Zimbabwe will also field four young riders – Davin Cocker, Ricky Whyte, Tristain Grainger and Jayden Young – in the 85cc Class while South Africa-based Regan Wasmuth and Liam Robinson will do duty in the 125cc Class.
Three promising young riders Declan Barrett, Luke Southon and Karl Van As will be carrying the country’s flag in the 50cc Class while Warren Thorne and Philip dos Santos will compete in the Veterans Class.
“Old war-horse” Shane Thomas will also be part of Team Zimbabwe in Gaborone this weekend where he will be fighting for the top step on the podium in the Masters Class.
There are also two female riders in Team Zimbabwe for this year’s African Championships and they are Leigh-Anne Young (125cc Class) and the unheralded Tadiwanashe Nyamupfukudza (65cc Class).
Unfortunately, the country’s top female rider Tanya Muzinda has opted out of this weekend’s event in Gaborone as it comes a week before her scheduled departure for England where she is expected to compete in the tough British Girls National Championsips at Wroxton in Oxford on September 9 and 10.
Team Zimbabwe for the 2017 FIM African Motocross of African Nations Championships
Declan Barrett, Luke Southon, Karl van As (all 50cc Class), Daiyaan Manuel, Emmanuel Bako (both 65cc Class), Davin Cocker, Ricky Whyte, Tristan Grainger, Jayden Young (all 85cc Class), Leigh-Anne Young, Tadiwanashe Nyamupfukudza (both Ladies Class), Regan Wasmuth, Liam Robinson (both 125cc Class), Jayden Ashwell, Brian MacDonell (both MX1 Class), Ashley Thixton, Josh Goby, Jacques du Plessis (all MX2 Class), Warren Thorne, Philip dos Santos (both Veterans Class), Shane Thomas (Masters Class).