With less than a week before the engines start in the infamously demanding Roof of Africa Hard Enduro, riders are gearing up for a course which could make or break them. The 42nd Roof of Africa will see three BMW Motorrad/Husqvarna riders tackle rocky mountainsides, sheer climbs and treacherous downhill routes in a test of endurance, ability, daring and machine reliability under extremely tough conditions.
Known as the ‘mother of hard enduro,’ the race takes place in the Kingdom of Lesotho over three days and encompasses hundreds of miles of the toughest riding imaginable. Flying the flag for BMW Motorrad is Gerhard Forster from Germany, while Finland’s Simo Kirssi and Germany’s Andi ‘Letti’ Lettenbichler are both competing on Husqvarnas. The two Husky riders will be testing their machines in the competition for the first time, having previously ridden BMW G450X motorcycles. More than 300 riders from all over the world are expected to line up on November 25 for the start of the event that takes place in the tiny, landlocked country that is entirely surrounded by South Africa.
The three BMW Motorrad/Husqvarna competitors are already training in Lesotho and are confident they can take on the might of the masses. As one of the most high-profile names on the start list, Letti is feeling calm ahead of the race. He made his debut in the Roof of Africa last year and despite a fantastic start which saw him take second place on day two, he was forced to retire after a rock punctured his bike’s engine casing, causing an oil leak. Undeterred by last year’s bad luck, Letti is back for more and is quietly confident about his chances in 2010.
“I’m not nervous; I’m eager to start and I will ride my own race,” he says. “I’m now on a Husqvarna two stroke and I feel confident it’s the right bike for me. I took it two weeks ago and it seems great — I hope it will be the right bike for the Roof.” And although Letti is calm ahead of the race, he refuses to be drawn into what he thinks his chances of victory are: “We will wait and see,” he says modestly.
Days are long during the race, with up to 10 hours spent conquering challenging terrain ranging from running river beds to mountain passes and flat grasslands. And while Simo Kirssi is indisputably one of the world’s best off-road riders — taking the German and European Cross Country Champion titles so far in 2010 — it will be the first time he has ever tackled this kind of extreme event.
“All the international riders got the opportunity to come to Lesotho before the race to adjust to the extreme terrain we will experience in the race,” says Simo. “It’s very helpful, as in one day the trail may go from just 1,500 meters above sea level to 3,500 meters above, then back down again. I have done enduro cross events in an arena with obstacles before, but nothing like this.”
“I’m riding a Husky 300 two stroke machine, which is easy to handle and has been proven in this field, so I feel I have the best bike” adds Simo. “I’m not a favorite for the podium because this is my first time, but finishing in the top 10 would be great.”
Gerhard Forster, who will be on a BMW G450X, has also been out in Lesotho preparing for the Roof of Africa. Forster already knows exactly how grueling the race can be after being forced to retire halfway through the final day of racing in 2008 after sustaining a shoulder injury, which also kept him out of last year’s Roof of Africa. But his rivals will be unable to relax this year, with Forster fighting fit and out for success, despite being the oldest competitor in the event, at 43-years-old.
For more information about the Roof of Africa, visit www.roof-of-africa.com.