He’s the South African with the strongest Scottish accent due to his roots and time spent over there, but Kenny Gilbert feels deeply South African where he was born some 32 years ago. And that’s where he learned to ride a bike before becoming one of the best off-road riders of the nation. After conquering 5 South-African titles, it was time to switch to something different, something bigger, something that had been a dream when he started racing: the Dakar. And the first step to that new career was taken when he participated in the Merzouga Rally earlier this year which was an “eye-opener” on a discipline that appeared to be “a lot harder” than he expected. Gilbert will therefore take on the Dakar with immense humility on a Husqvarna he is used to riding. The goal for year one is simply to finish but he has far bigger ambitions for the future.
“I’m 32 years old and it’s the end of my racing career in South Africa. After competing in a last off-road championship this year I wanted to move towards rallies. I see myself there in the future. I thought: now’s the time. When I showed up on the Merzouga Rally, I thought I could do this but it was a lot harder than I expected. A real eye-opener. I was impressed by the pace of the best riders who have to navigate. I crashed on day 4 of the Merzouga after following a rider in front of me which was a rookie mistake. That was a huge lesson. I can’t do that at the Dakar. My initial goal was to finish in the Top 20 at the Dakar but now I have no goal, just to finish and that would be huge. For the 2nd Dakar, I’ll have far bigger ambitions. I’m absolutely not worried about the physical aspect, it’s the navigation and working with a road-book that concerns me. Guys like Price or Sunderland are heroes for me now. They’re very inspirational. One day, when I’m big I hope I can compete with them.”
BAS DAKAR TEAM
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