Collin Matiza Sports Editor
ALL eyes will be on Jayden Ashwell when he leads his troops in Team Zimbabwe during the 2019 FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations Championships which revs off at Donnybrook Park in Harare today.
The Africa Motocross of Nations is the premier event on the continent’s motorcycling Union’s calendar and it has been held annually for the past 20 years.
This year’s event returns to Zimbabwe after having been last on these shores in 2015.
This year’s event has attracted a record number of more than 200 junior and senior male and female riders from seven countries — Botswana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and the hosts Zimbabwe.
They will be fighting for the top honours in nine different classes — PeeWees (for riders under the age of seven), 50cc, 65cc, 85cc, 125cc, MX1, MX2, Ladies and the combined Veterans and Masters.
And Zimbabwe, being the host nation, will be fielding a strong team of 59 riders in all these classes and they will be led by the country’s champion rider Ashwell, who is the team captain and has an unenviable task of wresting the African title away from perennial winners and arch-rivals South Africa.
South Africa have made the African motocross title their own personal property as they have won it more than 15 times since the inception of the FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations Championships way back in 1999.
The men and women from across the Limpopo are just a dominant force in African motocross and it will take a herculean task to snatch the title away from them and it will be interesting to see how Zimbabwe, who have been running them close for the past four years since they hosted the event in 2015, will handle them this time around at Donnybrook today and tomorrow.
Team Zimbabwe will be banking on the leadership of Ashwell, who will be competing in the seniors main MX1 Class together with Ashley Thixton, Hamish Perry, Frik Prinsloo and the talented Cameron Thixton.
On his day, Ashwell is just a joy to watch when mounting his KTM bike and poses a big threat to the South African riders in the MX1 Class during this weekend’s African Championships where he hopes to claim the first step on the podium in the MX1 Class.
Ashwell now knows the South African riders “like the back of his hand”, having been riding against most of that country’s senior riders in the South African National Championship series for more than four years now.
And having a vast knowledge of his “home track” at Donnybrook will give him a slight advantage over his rivals from South Africa.
Donnybrook is like home to Ashwell.
He has won almost all the races he has competed in at this iconic motorsport venue in Harare.
Apart from having a strong team of five riders in the main MX1 Class, Team Zimbabwe will also be represented in the 85cc Class by seven of its most talented young racers — Daiyaan Manuel, Emmanuel Bako, Jamie Doran, Ricky Whyte, Tristan Versveld, Dilan Faasen and Joshua Halkier. In the 85cc Class, 14-year-old Manuel and Bako (12) are Team Zimbabwe’s trumpcards and are safe bets to claim two of the three places on the podium at the business end of this year’s African Championships tomorrow afternoon.
Team Zimbabwe also have a strong squad of 12 junior riders — Jordan Dewdney, Declan Barrett, Karl Van As, Blake Prinsloo, Munyaradzi Bako, Tariq Shelton, Riley Rocher, Jack Goby, Luke Southon, Campbell Rennie, Mugaro Kabasa and Ross Stewart — in the 65cc Class.