South African rider Stuart Gregory just completed his 13th Roof of Africa – the highlight of the extreme enduro racing season. Usually most riders take a winter break after tackling the mountains of Lesotho, but Gregory decided to spend his winter break in Saudi Arabia, participating in his second Dakar in the Originals by Motul category.
Stuart, you just wrapped up the Roof of Africa; how was the experience this year?
It was another great edition. For me it’s pretty much my favourite event; it is sort of my home race. It is the thirteenth time I’ve participated, and I really love it.
Cleary you’re not taking a break; with another Roof victory in your pocket you’re going straight for the 2020 Dakar.
Yes (laughs). It is big challenge for me. It does bring a bit of stress participating in both the Roof and Dakar in such as short period, especially when dealing with an injury. If I would sustain an injury during the Roof or doing training, then my Dakar would be pretty much over.
Dakar and the Roof of Africa couldn’t be more different. There aren’t a lot of riders who have participated in both races, so your story is quite unique.
I think it’s because the Roof of Africa is obviously very popular amongst South African riders, so a large group of participants in the Roof are local riders. In South Africa we don’t really have sand dunes, so most of the competition is held on muddy parts of very rocky mountains. The region I live in, Port Edwards, is especially know for its rocky environment. To participate in the Dakar is the ultimate challenge for me and a good way to get out of my comfort zone.
This Dakar isn’t your first event? How was last year’s rally?
Last year I had an engine failure because somehow fesj fesj found its way into the block and the bike seized up with two more stages to go, so, needless to say, I have unfinished business with regard tot the Dakar.
Last year’s event took place in Peru, now the Dakar rally is setting up camp in Saudi Arabia. What are your thoughts on this evolution?
I think it’s a good thing for the event. When I look at the images and videos it looks a bit more like a classic Dakar, like it used to be in Africa. So for me it is a bit of a return to its roots. To be honest, I prefer it as well. Last year, it took about 30 hours of travelling to go from South Africa to Peru. Saudi Arabia is much closer. Plus, it doesn’t look like there’s any fesj fesj, so I have high hopes for my engine.
Just like last year you’re participating in the Originals by Motul category. What’s the comradery like in the bivouac?
Although it is the hardest way to participate in the Dakar, I think it is the best way. No, we don’t have many showers, nor do we have trailers, but I made a few really good friends who are now actually helping me out with the preparations, even before the event has started. That makes the category so unique – you’re in it together and you really create a bond with the other participants, so I’m really looking forward to see them in Saudi Arabia.