The Dakar is a huge event for South Africans – quite possibly the most anticipated and closest-followed motor race, it captures local imagination like few other motorsport events can. Run in early January every year to satisfy the country’s curiosity at a time when little else is going down, 2019 is going to be little different, but this year there’s an extra twist to that local interest…
Not only are Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya South Africa’s first crew of colour to tackle the Dakar, but the SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara duo has every possibility to keep the Dakar Rookie award firmly in Msanzi’s grip despite veteran racer and multiple former SA off road special vehicle champion Variawa not being under any illusions.
“Our goal is to finish our first Dakar,” Shameer, who takes a wealth of experience into the Peru epic admitted “In future I hope to compete with the top drivers, but my main concern is not having much experience in the dunes – I’m more of a WRC road driver, not really the dunes, but we have prepared well and I can’t wait to get on to that start ramp!”
Navigation is another Dakar challenge, but navigator Bodhanya feels he is up to the job. “The Dakar is completely different to how we are used to navigating off prepared notes – there it is far more to do with reaching waypoints in the desert and working with satellite data,” Zaheer from Pretoria explained. “We’ve been working hard on that and I trust we are up to the challenge – bring it on!”
Motorsport runs deep in the Variawa family – a South African clan of Indian origin. Shameer was inspired by his father, while both of his kids are leading kart racers and he has raced in all form of off-road around the world over a quarter century, but the Dakar has long been on his bucket list.
Not one for half measures, Variawa travelled to Peru and followed the Dakar 2018 bivouacs; came up with a 5-year plan and forged an alliance between his Shameer Variawa Racing and Johannesburg-based experiential motorsport experts, Red Lined Motoring Adventures. Together the team has designed and developed its brand new VK50 V8-powered T1 class Nissan Navara complete with independent rear suspension and a full composite body; water-cooled brakes, Reiger suspension and Motec electronics.
“I have won championships at home and raced in Mexico and the USA, but I never had the opportunity to do the Dakar despite following it since I was nineteen,” Variawa concluded. “It is time to give it a go – to make the Dakar dream come true for me and all the people around me – follow our Nissan Navara number 429 on the Dakar – we will be flying the South African flag with pride!”
Dakar 2019 runs exclusively in Peru – follow Shameer, Zaheer and the SVR Red-Lined Nissan team’s progress on www.motorsportmedia.co.za every day from 6-17 January.