Dakar: Alfie Cox preview

Alfie Cox ready for 2003 Dakar Race Known amongst the International Cross Country Rally fraternity for his "nothing can stop me" attitude, South Africa's Alfie Cox, racing for the Gauloises KTM Factory Team with local support from Natro ...

Alfie Cox ready for 2003 Dakar Race

Known amongst the International Cross Country Rally fraternity for his "nothing can stop me" attitude, South Africa's Alfie Cox, racing for the Gauloises KTM Factory Team with local support from Natro Freight, Nashua, RedBull, Acerbis and Oakley is definitely one of the favourites in the 2003 Telefonica Dakar Race, which starts on 1 January 2003 in Marseille, France.

Having finished second in the 2002 Dakar race and having secured a second place in both the Australian Safari Rally and the UAE Desert Challenge during 2002, Cox is known for exceptional finishing record and the large number of podium finishes over the past five years that he has raced in Cross Country Rallies.

"It was definitely not all plain sailing," says the stocky redhead from Cato Ridge in KwaZulu Natal. He continued: "In the beginning I really battled with navigation and then there was an all new leapfrog tactic in multi-day racing, which I had no knowledge of. After gaining some experience on reading a GPS at 170km/h, translating a French road-book and keeping the bike on the road, I regularly found myself loosing places and time on a good race-day. Then I learnt that if you rode slower on a specific day and finished a minute or so slower than the man ahead, you start two minutes behind him on the following day. Simply catching him on the second day meant two minutes made up on his time and a good chance of then leading him on overall time, but this also apply to your opponents. This makes cross country rallies a completely different kettle of fish to the type of racing I grew up in."

The storybook CV of Andrew (Alfie) Cox makes for some excellent reading. His multiple South African titles for Off Road and Enduro racing, together with Springbok and Protea Colours tell a tale of years of commitment by an athlete who has dedicated his life to his sport.

It is his international racing career however, that really impresses, not only has he won the Roof of Africa 9 times in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, but he has won 4 International Six Day Enduro Events and the Baja in 1990 and 1991.

When the entire KTM Team suffered with bad engine bearings three races ago, it was the same jovial Cox who sat waiting for a support truck to arrive, and after replacing his engine, continued racing into the fearsome dark night with very limited lighting from the bike and merely sandy tracks leading to the bivouac and the overnight stop. He brought a finishers badge home. Different to many of the other top ranked riders who pack it in when they do not stand a chance of winning and get on the first flight home.

When it seemed as if KTM could not win the Dakar, Cox, different to a few of his teammates, did not jump ship to the opposition, he remained loyal and persevered with the team he believed in and was part of the first two Dakar winning KTM teams in 2001 and 2002.

With his bubbly personality and the solid handshake, it is difficult to imagine how this dedicated athlete can consider one of his weaknesses to be concentration. Almost an oxymoron when thinking that he has raced for tens of thousands of kilometers with a very low accident rate specially taking into account how busy the office can become when navigating and competing against the best in the world across unfamiliar terrain in the deserts of North Africa, but Alfie Cox's personal motto is to remain focused on the job at hand and he definitely seem to have succeeded in doing that.

Undoubtedly a threat in every race he enters and listed as a favourite for a win, the "Desert Fox" needs to be watched and contained at all cost, otherwise he has proved to be the best in navigation, speed and the ability to look after his equipment when the going gets really tough and the men is separated from the boys.

"The longer and tougher the rally, the better for me," is the strategy he lives by.

We will follow Alfie Cox, and many of his fans have already sent the best wishes, but when he departs from Johannesburg International Airport on 29 December 2002, Alfie Cox goes to the 2003 Telefonica Dakar with the certainty that he competes as one of South Africa's top ambassadors in Motorsport, and he will definitely persist to the bitter end not to disappoint his supporters.

-nfngktm-

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Series DAKAR