Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Charan Moore says Dakar win ‘feels like a dream come true’

'The riding was good, physically I was good and mentally 100%. But the toughest part without a doubt was the elements,' says Moore.

The direct translation of the French words “malle moto” describing the unassisted motorcycle class in the Dakar Rally is “trunk and motorcycle”.

But once you realise what this category is all about, you’d be forgiven for thinking the word “malle” is taken straight from Afrikaans to describe the riders competing in it.

This, of course, being “crazy”. “I think you will be very right in assuming that,” laughs Charan Moore, 31, the winner of this category – officially referred to as the Original by Motul class these days. Moore won the category on a Husqvarna FR 450 Rally in emphatic fashion by over 21 minutes from Spaniard Javi Vega after 14 gruelling stages in Saudi Arabia last Sunday.

He finished 28th in the overall two-wheel category, beating off all of 48 riders who did have assistance. Although Original by Motul is a class that falls under the overall bike umbrella, it was only the second time a South African had stood on the top step of the Dakar podium after Giniel de Villiers, who won the overall car category in 2009.

Unassisted bike category represents Dakar’s ‘foundation’

Regarded by the purists as the toughest category in what is already considered the toughest race in the world, the unassisted bike category represents the Dakar’s very foundation.

Motul, the French lubricant company which sponsors the category, carries one trunk containing tools and smaller spares, a set of spare tyres and a tent for each rider on a truck from bivouac. No outside mechanical labour is allowed, meaning every rider must service and repair his or her own bike after every stage.

That is over and above cleaning their riding gear, queueing for food at the cafeteria, using communal bathrooms and putting up their own tents when they finally get a few hours to sleep.

In contrast, riders from factory teams or those paying for assistance have mechanics looking after their bikes, access to physiotherapy, sleep in camper vans with bathrooms and enjoy their own catering.

Charan Moore says Dakar win 'feels like a dream come true'
Moore celebrates winning the Original by Motul category at the 2023 Dakar Rally last Sunday.

“Everyone understands how tough it is and everyone sympathises to a certain extent with someone that’s struggling.

“When you are physically tired, there is always someone to lean on,” Moore told The Saturday Citizen in Dammam after the race. In his case, his younger brother Patrick was his rock.

Like in 2022, when Moore finished a respectable fourth in the unassisted class on his Dakar debut, the proud Patrick was again by his side this year.

“Obviously he can’t help me on the bike or anything personal during the race, but Patrick is always there for me,” says Moore.

“We have meals together, discuss stages and debrief. To have that support system and someone you can lean on is instrumental in keeping your head on straight.”

Coming from a motorcycle racing family, it’s hard to believe both the adventure-seeking brothers actually have day jobs in information technology at the family business in Maseru, where they commute to daily from their home in Ladybrand.

ALSO READ: SA’s Henk Lategan takes maiden Dakar victory

Moore started working there after graduating with a business degree from the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. But when Moore wasn’t behind the books, you would have most certainly found him on a bike.

‘Crowd of riders is a massive family’

He started racing bikes at the age of 16 and went on to win South Africa Cross Country Championship in 2021. Inspired by his Boatswain friend Ross Branch, who rides for the Hero factory team, he made the step up to Dakar.

“The crowd of riders is a massive family and it is a real privilege to be a part of it,” he says.

“The event is so big and the magnitude is so great that just to come here and experience it as a competitor is step one.

“To actually compete and win something feels like a dream come true and the start of something bigger I think.”

ALSO READ: De Villiers wins Dakar ninth stage, Lategan second

The 2023 Dakar Rally will go down in history as one of the toughest. Not only did the addition of two stages increase the distance to 8 000 kilometres of which 5 000km were timed, but inclement weather wreaked havoc on many a stage.

“The riding was good, physically I was good and mentally 100%. But the toughest part without a doubt was the elements,” says Moore.

“It was so cold at times, especially when you wake up at two or three in the morning and it’s raining outside or like one degree Celsius. Then you still need to take down your tent, get on the bike and ride 400km on a tarred road before the timed section begins.”

Moore hopes his 2023 exploits can pave the way for him getting a ride with one of the established teams next year.

“Malle moto is finished for me, I’ve ticked that box,” he declares.

“I want to go with a mechanic, sleep in a camper van so that I can focus solely on racing and not worry about the bike or putting up a tent or any of that kind of stuff.

“With regards to getting a ride with a team, I don’t know if anything will come up. If a deal comes along, I’ll sign right away.

“But when I come back and I can’t get a ride from any specific team, I’ll be renting a package from HT Rally which I use in races outside of the Dakar and fund it through support.

“The only certainty for me is that I’ll be back.”

Watch this space.

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