Thixton chases history at Dakar Rally READY AND WAITING . . . Zimbabwean motorbike rider Ashley Thixton is both nervous and excited ahead of next month’s 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia

Collin Matiza Sports Editor

WITH the 2024 Dakar Rally just around the corner, Zimbabwean motorbike rider Ashley Thixton says he feels a little bit nervous ahead of the biggest motor rallying event in the world where he will be chasing his own piece of history.

The 2024 Dakar Rally is just less than two weeks away and the towering dunes of the Empty Quarter desert in Saudi Arabia await those brave enough to face them.

The action begins with a prologue stage in AlUla on Friday, January 5, before the convoy tackles 12 special stages and a total distance of almost 8 000 kilometres. Reaching the finish line at the Dakar is considered a success and the chequered flag will be waved in Yanbu on Friday, December 19.

There are 135 newcomers, including Thixton, who will be competing in the race for the first time, along with 129 legends and 31 participants in the Original by Motul category. Additionally, 46 women are participating, 34 of whom are in the Dakar Classic category.

The rally is a race on a scale like no other in the world, and our own Zimbabwean biker Thixton will be out to write his own piece of history at this gruelling event.

He is aiming to become the second Zimbabwean motorbike rider to complete the full distance after Graeme Sharp who managed to last the distance in 2020 when the Dakar Rally first moved to Saudi Arabia.

Thixton feels excited and nervous at the same time to take on the challenge of the Dakar Rally 2024 for the first time in his racing career.

He affirmed to Zimpapers Sports yesterday his full fitness and said he feels more motivated than ever to secure a positive result at the legendary event.

He said being nervous is very much part of the game ahead of such a big international global event.

“Yes, (being) nervous is very much part of the equation and the real feeling of this whole dream is definitely at the surface at the moment.

“It’s more difficult to deal with than expected and it’s also a mental struggle at the moment. But it’s time to get going as I do think that will help me with (being) nervous. Throughout my career I have always struggled with nervousness so this is just part of the journey.

“The 15-day event is going to be a really long slog but I am fully ready for it and we will tackle each day as it comes with full effort,” Thixton said.

Asked who inspired him to enter the toughest rally in the world, Thixton said: “The inspiration to do Dakar was always in me. I had discussed it many times with my dad and it’s been on my list of life goals since I was young.

“But the fire was really lit when Greame Sharp achieved the podium (in 2020) and then approached us to carry the Zim flag further through the Dakar scene.” And what are his expectations ahead of the 2024 Dakar Rally.

“I think the expectations are to finish every day. As I said before that is my only goal at this stage. Should there be any successes beyond that, that will only be added achievements,” said Thixton, who spent Christmas Day on Monday doing a light training session and recovery from an ice bath.

“Then the afternoon was spent with close family members with a very nice lunch to ease the tensions (ahead of the Dakar Rally, “ Thixton said with a laugh.

Just reaching the finish line of the two-week Dakar Rally is classed as a victory. And Thixton has an energy that is hard to define – it’s a combination of determination, focus and the willingness to face fear head-on.

Just attempting to last the distance at Dakar Rally on his first attempt shows the 30-year-old Zimbabwean biker has got some nerves of steel.

It is grit that enabled Thixton to dream of getting to enter the rally and grit that we have no doubt will carry him over.

The whole of Zimbabwe’s motorsport enthusiasts will no doubt be rooting for him as he tackles the dunes of Saudi Arabia for 14 days, starting from January 5, 2024.

They will be supporting Thixton all the way! He is in the process of fulfilling his dream to get to the start line for Dakar 2024! Thixton is scheduled to leave for Saudi Arabia on New Year’s Day (January 1, 2024) to tackle the toughest and most challenging event in his motorsport career at the 2024 Dakar Rally.

Lasting the distance at next month’s Dakar Rally will be a phenomenal achievement for Thixton who spent most of his years growing up as a motocross rider.

The total distance of the 2024 Dakar Rally is 7 891 km; this includes 4 727 km of timed special stages and 3 164 km of liaison stages.

The longest day of the rally will be Sunday, January 14. A total of 873 km are to be covered, including a timed special stage of 483 km.

According to reports from Saudi Arabia, the 46th edition of the Dakar Rally welcomes 778 competitors in 434 race vehicles representing 187 teams.

There are 137 motorbikes and 72 cars (Ultimate category) registered. There will al-so be 46 trucks, 42 Challengers (formerly T3), 36 SSVs and 10 quads. A further 80 vehicles are booked in the Classic class. In this truly global event, 135 rookies are preparing for their first Dakar and a total of 72 nationalities (including support teams).

The extensive logistics operation behind the Dakar includes two ships, three aero-planes, 15 helicopters and 100 lorries as well as 500 event personnel.

The Dakar bivouac accommodates over 3 000 people and is 200 000 square metres in size. Over 8 000 meals are served daily in the bivouac’s catering tent. At the Dakar, there are 300 000 bottles of water and plenty of Red Bull cans!

The most anticipated section of the rally is undoubtedly the 48-hour chrono stage. It begins on Thursday morning, January 11, when the convoy sets off from the Shubaytah bivouac to tackle the 250 m high sand dunes of the desert in the “Empty Quarter”. At 16:00, the competitors finish their races for the day and make their way to the nearest of the six mini-bivouacs set up along the 532km special stage.

That evening, due to marathon stage rules, competitors will be excluded from their teams and forced to carry out any necessary repairs themselves and with the tools at their disposal. Crucially, competitors are also separated from their rivals with no way of knowing whether they are losing or gaining time.

After a night camping in the desert, the remaining part of the 532 km special route plus 234 km liaison route must be completed before they hopefully reach the rest day bivouac in Riyadh sometime on Friday January 12.

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