Thixton’s 2024 Dakar Rally dream takes shape BROTHERLY LOVE . . . Ashley Thixton (right) enjoys the company of his young brother Cameron as he prepares for next month’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia

Collin Matiza Sports Editor

ASHLEY Thixton’s Dakar Rally dream lives on!

The 30-year-old Zimbabwean motorbike rider’s participation in next month’s 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia got another shot in the arm when a local tobacco company —Curverid Tobacco (CTL) — came on board with a “bronze sponsorship” which boosted his coffers for his trip to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of next month.

The 46th Dakar Rally, an international symbol of off-road endurance, is poised to sweep through the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia from January 5 to 19.

The race marks the fifth year in a row that Saudi Arabia has played host to this challenging event.

This year, the rally introduces several technical and regulatory innovations, one of the most notable being a new “curfew for engines” during a specific stage in the “Empty Quarter.”

And our own motorbike rider, Thixton, will be part of a strong field of 137 male and female bikers who have entered the motorbike section of the world’s toughest motor rally.

Thixton will be making his debut appearance at the rally where he will be Zimbabwe’s sole representative at this big global motorsport event.

He has been on a fund-raising drive as he needs to raise US$130 000 for the trip to the Middle East country next month.

And a local tobacco company — CTL —recently came to his rescue with a sponsorship package.

Although he couldn’t disclose how much money CTL released to him in their “bronze sponsorship” deal, Thixton was yesterday over the moon. He said he was blown away by the company’s level of professionalism during their discussions for the sponsorship.

“Crunch time just got a whole lot sweeter with Curverid Tobacco (CTL) hoping on board (for) the Dakar dream!

“Sitting down with their team, I was blown away by the level of professionalism and dedication they bring to the table.

“It’s clear that CTL is driven through sustainability.

“Can’t wait to represent you at Dakar 2024!” Thixton wrote on his Facebook wall yesterday.

He later confirmed to Zimpapers Sports that CTL gave him a substantial amount of money for his trip to Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Dakar Rally.

“Yes, CTL have come on board with a bronze sponsorship, which I am very thankful for.

“We have now raised over US$100 000 but we still have about US$30 000 left. With an extremely good raffle on the go, I look to narrrow that down towards the closing of December.”

He said his preparations were going on well.

“Preparations are going well. I will be venturing to Botswana to meet up with the Dakar legend Ross Branch to take on some road books as (part of) my final preparations

“It’s crazy cause the packing has already started and it’s all beginning to feel real now.

“It’s time to start living the dream and enjoy the process.”

Thixton is set to become the third Zimbabwean to take part in the Dakar Rally after the legendary motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach and fellow biker Graeme Sharp.

Preparations for the 2024 edition of Dakar Saudi Arabia — the world’s most challenging rally — are now fully underway, organisers have announced.

It will be the 46th edition of the prestigious Dakar Rally, and the fifth one hosted in the Kingdom.

Immediately after the last rally in February, the groundwork for the fifth edition commenced with scouting for the 2024 editions of both the Dakar Rally and Dakar Classic routes, ensuring competitors face no unforeseen dangers or challenges.

The 10-month effort included rescue and support vehicles, trucks, and helicopters to sketch out the rally’s stages and the diverse terrains that make the Saudi Dakar Rally distinct. Organisers have promised a novel route for its fifth year.

The race will start in AlUla, crossing from west to east through different terrains, allowing racers to witness the country’s stunning landscapes and archaeological sites. The journey will include the Empty Quarter desert, circling back to the Red Sea shores, and ending at Yanbu’s Sea Camp after 15 days of rigorous competition.

Considered the pinnacle of motorsport events, the Saudi Dakar Rally annually attracts thrill-seekers and speed enthusiasts, and is celebrated for its rich heritage, grand scale, and the adrenaline fuelled experience it aims to offer to an international audience.

The previous Saudi Dakar edition was marked as the rally with the longest special, timed stages since 2014, covering nearly 5 000km of diverse terrains and revealing new vistas in Saudi deserts.

Dakar Rally is managed by the Amaury Sport Organisation in partnership with the Saudi Motorsport Co, under the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation’s provision

The rally will feature defending champions such as Kevin Benavides (Motos), Alexandre Giroud (Quads), Nasser Al Attiyah (Autos), Austin Jones (T3), Eryk Goczal (T4), and Janus van Kasteren (Trucks).

As we head into the new year, the anticipation for the Rally Dakar 2024 is palpable, as it promises to be a thrilling blend of innovation, competition, and human endurance.

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