South African enthusiasts will have an unusual and formidable privateer team to cheer for in next year’s Dakar Rally, to be held through Saudi Arabia from 3 to 15 January.
The team will comprise of a former Dakar Rally quadbike podium occupant, plus the second woman from Africa to ever finish the Dakar on a motorcycle. And they will race a South African designed, built and developed car.
The driver will be Polokwane engineer, businessman and veteran racer Brian Baragwanath, the navigator a highly successful motorcycle racer Taye Perry from Rustenburg, and the car South African based Century Racing’s state-of-the-art rear-wheel drive race buggy. The driver, navigator and car are all eminently suited to the task of tackling – and finishing – the world’s toughest motorsport event.
Baragwanath (32) started off road racing at the age of 11, and has written six South African quadbike championships behind his name. Notably, he tackled the 2016 Dakar quadbike race and finished third overall, after three stage wins and eight stage podium places.
After sustaining a serious arm injury the same season, he switched to car racing, where he came to the attention of the Midrand-based Century Racing team, which has been building, selling and racing its CR off road cars for the past decade. Baragwaneth is currently employed as the team’s development engineer and race car driver.
Perry (28) is an extremely competent off-road motorcycle racer. The figures bear this out – she started her first race in 2006, and finished it. Since then she has competed in 165 off-road races and retired from just seven, which works out to a 96% finish rate.
Her biggest achievement was finishing 77th overall in this year’s Dakar Rally, riding a 2019 KTM Rally Replica. She was well set to become the first woman from Africa to finish the epic event on two wheels, but time lost due to mechanical problems saw her lose out on this feat to compatriot Kirsten Landman.
The South African built CR6 car is the result of 10 years of research and development by the Midrand-based Century Racing concern. Loosely based on its CR5 predecessor, the CR6 racer is powered by a seven-litre Chevrolet V8 engine, mated with a six-speed sequental gearbox.
Having gone through hundreds of hours of testing since its initial design in 2017, Baragwanath believes it to be the best two-wheel drive off road car in the world.
“Therefore, it needs to be entered for the toughest off-road race in the world, and I started looking for a possible navigator. Taye became my first choice after she finished this year’s Dakar on a motorcycle, and I contacted her,” he says.
“I was planning to return to the Dakar on a motorcycle, but Covid-19 and all of its economic ramifications put paid to that. So I immediately accepted when offered the chance to go racing in both the South African Cross Country series and next year’s Dakar,” Perry says.
The Baragwanath/ Perry/CR6 combination came into its own at the recent SA season-concluding race around Parys, when they finished third overall, closely behind the works Toyota Gazoo Hilux of Dakar legend Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro.
“I think it all came together remarkably quickly in the car, because both bike and quadbike off-road racers are instinctive navigators, used to reacting immediately to route markings or wheelprints at high speeds,” Perry says.
“Having the luxuries of a route schedule, an air-conditioned cabin, a seat, a safety harnass and a roll-cage around one feels like sheer indulgence. So, the least we can do is give it our all. We know the CR6 is not well suited to short and tight routes like that of the Parys event, but the Dakar will give it ample opportunities to really stretch its legs,” she adds.
“I can hardly wait,” Baragwanath says. “Tackling the Dakar is a costly, demanding and risky business, but it represents one of the world’s last remaining real challenges, and therefore it just has to be tackled, while at all possible,” he concludes.
The 2021 Dakar Rally will start and end in the city of Jeddah and cover a total distance of 7 900km in 12 stages over 13 days. Being an expensive exercise, the team would love to hear from local sponsors who could get involved. Interested parties could call Clive or Sonika Baragwanath at 083 627 4767 or 083 631 7420 for more details. You can also follow Brian Baragwanath Racing on Facebook for all the latest news.