Monster Energy Amageza Rally
In total, 70 participants registered during the course of Friday, all of whom went through scrutineering and a medical examination at the hands of the Emergency Medical Operations (EMO) team. The only female participant, Renette Rauch, came back for her second Amageza Rally on her BMW R1200GS—the biggest bike at the event. This year the rally also attracted two participants from other countries—Attie de Jager from Namibia, and Neil Ringdahl from Peru. Neil finished the infamous 4500km Dos Sertões Rally across Brazil on his Springbok-adorned Yamaha WR450 last year—the same bike he flew over to South Africa for the Amageza.
The riders started heading down to the main street just after four o’clock for the official rider announcements on Friday. Locals gathered—curious to watch the roaring group arrive. Aside from the gigantic Monster Energy-branded Dodge truck, two gyrocopters (utilized to provide aerial communications relay and contribute to filming the action during the event) added to the extraordinary sights and sounds. But, the activities were delayed due to a rider slipping around a gravel corner and breaking his collarbone, which forced him to quit. If this didn’t put a damper on spirits, Alexander Nel’s description of the next day’s mountain trail descending into “the cauldron of hell” during the briefing must have had a mild unnerving effect on some.
But regardless of whether the nerves, or the pinching cold kept some awake for a little longer—Saturday arrived, and with it, a noticeable excitement in the air. After being woken at 4 a.m. by the “Amageza Chicken Wake-up Call” (AC/DC’s Thunderstruck), a very early breakfast at 5 a.m. and a quick 20km liaison leg to checkpoint one, the participants waited in anticipation for the timed special stage to start. Despite the chill in the air everyone was fired-up and ready to wring the throttle. The 80km special kicked off upon a glorious sunrise—like only the Karoo can conjure up, which was followed by a 320km liaison leg via Laingsburg.
As expected, the rain turned the normally dry and dusty terrain into a slippery challenge, testing riders to their limits as they manoeuvred down treacherous mountain drops, across rocky river beds, riveting river crossings and up steep climbs. Darryl Curtis quickly worked his way to the front—laying tracks for the rest. Another top South African rally rider, John Webb, caught up with Curtis, giving him a serious run for his money. Two bikes were recovered—Gabriel Kroes’ KTM950 Adventure broke down, while Robert Adams crashed his Honda XR650. The on-sight EMO crew attended to him, but he was unable to finish having sustained a few cracked ribs.
Overall, the riders did better than expected for the wet conditions, with the first few reaching the second checkpoint in around two hours. The frontrunners included John Webb, Darryl Curtis, Koos van den Heever, Attie de Jager, Gideon Joubert, Roger Scheffer and Dewald Huisamen. Renette turned out to be quite a legend among the riders—despite smashing her face on her bike’s handle bar she refused to quit. Her fellow riders gave her a cheering welcome as she entered the dining hall after the first day of blood, sweat and tears. Although exhausted, everybody was all smiles—eager to exchange their war stories, and hungry for more.
The second day entailed a shorter, but just as challenging route, which started with a 45km liaison stage that took participants to the summit of the Ouberg Pass overlooking the Tankwa Karoo 1000m below. Reaching checkpoint one, the 60km special leg started, leading them down a daunting descent, onto a fast flat section, and up a private rocky 4 x 4 pass—on which some rider commented he would be embarrassed to take a mule along. After battling up a very tricky step-up, scattered with rocks the size of cooler boxes, riders reached the top of the mountain plateau looking out over a valley as far as the eye could see, which made all the frustration in getting there worthwhile. For some, however, the frustration lasted a little longer. On her way up, Renette smashed a hole in her sump. But, refusing to throw in the towel, she fixed the hole with the help of her riding companion, Lukas Bekker, and managed to get some oil in order to finish the rally.
Reaching the second checkpoint, the riders were treated with a quick “boerie roll” (a South African hotdog) before finishing the last 60km liaison leg taking them back to the bivouac. The weekend’s action was concluded with a prize-giving ceremony at The Jupiter, a local restaurant, where 54 riders received trophies. Tiaan van Heerden was awarded the Dirty Harry prize; Mike Schmucker received the Biggest Airtime for a Classic Bike prize, and Renette walked away with the Amageza Spirit prize.
With the riders loading their bikes to leave the next day there was a hint of disbelief that the weekend had come to an end. The only reassuring thought was that, come 2013, there would be another Amageza Rally; and this one would be even more action-packed, as Alexander Nel explains: “Thanks to our sponsors and especially the riders, this event was a great success. The next challenge will be to extend the Amageza to either a three- or five-day event for next year.” Wayne Harrison invites those who’d like to come back for more, or those wanting to do their first Amageza: “Look out for the 2013 Amageza Rally. It’s gonna deliver a whole new level of crazy rally adrenalin.”
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