Two Team BMW Husqvarna Motorsport riders are celebrating great results in
this year's infamously gruelling Roof of Africa hard enduro event. The 42nd
annual race, through the bone-jarring terrain of the mountainous Kingdom
of Lesotho, saw Andreas 'Letti' Lettenbichler take a podium place on a WR300
Husqvarna machine, while Husky riding team-mate Simo Kirssi had been running
as high as fifth, before running out of fuel just two kilometres from the
end. The talented Finn eventually finished in 12th place, while veteran rider
Gerhard Forster – the oldest competitor in the event at 43 – finished in
23rd on a BMW G450X.
More than 300 international riders lined up at the start of the three-day
Roof of Africa event on November 25. For Letti in particular, failure was
not an option after a punctured engine casing forced him to retire early
following a great start in the 2009 event. However, it seemed disaster might
be about to strike twice when he took a wrong turn on day two and spent more
than 30 wasted minutes getting back on course. But he used all his skill
and energy to claw his way back into third and take a Gold medal, despite
being totally exhausted by the time he crossed the finish line. "I wanted
too much and lost concentration for a moment," Letti explained. "But
it was still a happy outcome."
Kirssi meanwhile was riding in the Roof of Africa for the first time, making
his 12th place success even more remarkable. Despite modestly saying before
the enduro event that he was "not a favourite," the Finn left many more seasoned
competitors in his wake. At the end of the first day, he was in seventh place,
and, by day three, was ready to take fifth place, when bad luck struck. Kirssi
ran out of gas just two kilometres from the final fuel stop and was forced
to wait until a fair-minded rival stopped to help. The delay cost him dearly,
resulting in him taking 12th place overall. And while many would have been
delighted just to have finished the Roof, the current German and European
Cross Country Champion was clearly disappointed, saying: "What can you
do, that's racing."
tough event not only tested the endurance of competitors, but their mental
fitness too and only 22 riders managed to score gold when they completed
the full race distance within the prescribed time over three days.
Forster, the sole BMW-rider in the competition, also performed extremely
well throughout the notorious endurance tests. He was sitting in 16th at
the end of day one, pushed up to 12th by the close of day two, although problems
with his chain and chain-guide on the final day meant that he couldn't finish
within the designated time, so he ended in 23rd position after 20 hours of
riding, and collected a Silver medal for his considerable efforts.
"I didn't quite make it across the finish line because I had a few problems
on the final pass, called the 'Please Push Me' pass, where my chain snapped.
It was a bit frustrating because I had been going reasonably well up to that
point. The best bit of the race was the second day, when everything went
really well. I think, had rocks not damaged the chain guide, I would have
got the same time as the winner. I had no problems at all with the BMW bike,
apart from the chain jumping off because of the broken guide – otherwise,
it was superb. After the race, I immediately thought 'no, I'm not going to
do this again next year, but now, I'm already reconsidering'!"
The race encompasses some of the most challenging conditions in the world
and heavy rain had made the route even more treacherous. Altitudes ranged
from 1,500 to 3,500 metres and riders had to battle sheer climbs, running
river beds, and donkey trails. Skill, ability and the endurance capabilities
of the machines themselves were all pushed to the absolute limit and the
achievements of Letti, Kirssi and Forster are testament to their significant
talents as well as the reliability of their motorcycles.