By:T’soloane Mohlomi

The Roof of Africa Rally is back again with yet another edition of the enthralling off- road racing spectacle which takes place annually in the Mountain Kingdom.

Known as “The Mother of Hard Enduro” the Roof of Africa Rally 2023 which is in its 54th rendition since inception in 1967 will take place in Lesotho from the 29th of November to the 2 of December this year and as expected will begin with a curtain raising race in Maseru before heading out into the rugged terrains of the Maluti mountains.

With a close to M2 million cost, the race this year features a total of 465 riders who will compete in four different categories which namely are ; Gold which is the highest category, Silver which is the second, then Bronze and iron respectively. With this edition an additional Adventure Division has been specially added on with a total of 50 riders showing interest.

In this edition nine international countries will compete only three African countries will feature. Represented countries will include Iceland, Fiji, Austria, Australia, Poland, the United States of America, Japan, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The African continent will be represented by Eswatini, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa and of course the Kingdom of Lesotho as the host nation with a total of 12 riders.

Most notably the race will be graced with the presence of International rider Cobby Webb who is ranked among the top 10 best riders in the world.

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday at the Lesotho Tourism and Development Corporation premises (LTDC), Lesotho Off-Road Association (LORA) Chairman Mr Mopeli Ntabe said since the race’s inception in 1967 they had successfully hosted the race while only forfeiting twice due to the covid-19 pandemic.

He notably mentioned that The Roof of Africa Rally is the oldest Extreme Enduro Race and that made it very special in the calendar of extreme sports in the world and Off-Road Racing in particular. Mr Ntabe added that with the usual routes known to racers who usually partook in the race every year it was inevitable for some routes to change.

“ With this edition being the 54th edition we are proud to have hosted consecutively except on two occasion, locally this year we have made strides as a country as we have one rider competing in the silver category, one in iron and ten competing in the bronze category. This is our first year as LORA we are receiving sponsorship from various states sectors and we are thankful for that because this is a race for Basotho,” he explained.

Last year’s main event (Gold category) was won by Wade Young with a seventh time record which is only one win away from equalling the all-time record held by Alfie Cox whose last win came in 2001. With far stiff competition this year, the race promises to be another thrilling encounter.

Speaking on behalf of the LTDC Mr Molapo Matela expressed extreme joy with the hosting of another version of the esteemed race. He said the Roof of Africa Rally aligned with their mandate of attracting tourism to Lesotho so the LTDC would continue supporting the race in future spectacles because when in full swing Lesotho benefits greatly due to the influx of foreigners who flood the country with the hope of catching a glimpse of the race and exploring the beautiful sites presented by the kingdom in the Sky.

“Ladies and gentlemen allow me to explain that over the years the LTDC has been supporting and rallying behind the Lesotho Off-Road Association (LORA) which has been organizing the renowned Roof of Africa tourney over the years. Thus, the corporation saw it fittingly to support the event as it synchronizes with LTDC’s mandate of attracting travellers to visit Lesotho and spend money,” he said.

“The corporation contributes in the hosting of the event by providing assistance in various ways such as publicizing the event on various media platforms and offering financial backup, funds permitting. LTDC usually undertakes sensitization campaigns with LORA that encourage hospitable conduct among neighbouring villages where the competing motorcycles pass through.”

The Roof of Africa Rally was formerly founded by Enginner Bob Phillips who worked in Lesotho back then, and only twenty riders took part in the maiden event. Growing in leaps and bounds the race now attracts hundreds of spectators and lures various sponsors.