Nineteen years after its last appearance in South Africa - for the opening round of the 250cc GP season - World Championship Motocross returns this weekend, when the brand new Sun City facility will host the sixteenth and final round of the 2004 season.

Despite the rarity with which it has held a GP, South Africa has retained an important presence in the Motocross world for the last twenty years with riders such as Greg Albertyn (three times World Champion in 1992, 1993 and 1994), Grant Langston (World Champion in 2000) and Tyla Rattray (MX2 Vice World Champion this year) playing a prominent role.

And while both 2004 world titles have already been decided, in favour of Stefan Everts (MX1) and Ben Townley (MX2), there is huge interest in the event - the first held 'overseas' since the GP of Australia in 2001.

The magnificent Sun City circuit (lower pic) has been designed and built from scratch, with the advice of Youthstream sport manager Greg Atkins, and more than 9000 tickets have already been sold. The races will also be broadcast live on National Supersport channel, one of the main South African TV networks.

"When we contracted Youthstream we clearly asked them to focus on two main goals," revealed Wolfgang Srb, president of the FIM motocross commission. "The first was to develop the TV coverage, and so far we're really happy with the results they've obtained in less than one year.

"The second goal was to reach new countries, as we can't accept having a world championship consisting of only European events. South Africa is a first step, next year we'll add Japan, and other countries such as Australia and China have shown a serious interest," he added.

And while most of the frontrunners have already secured their position in the championship, twenty of the regular GP riders will be making the (expensive) trip to South Africa in time for this Sunday's races. One man eager to stand on the top step is Everts, who would like nothing more than to clinch his 80th career triumph in the final round of 2004.

"It would be nice to score the 80th win there as I've already clinched my 8th title this year," said Stefan, "but I know that Michael Pichon will want revenge and once more he will be fast."

Arriving in South Africa a couple of days earlier than his son, Stefan's father Harry also tipped the Frenchman: "This track will perfectly suit Pichon, as it's a Supercross type circuit, with many jumps."

During the second part of the season both have won the majority of GPs (7 for Pichon, 5 for Everts), led most of the laps (193 for Everts and 163 for Pichon) and will be once again the main favourites of the event.

But one man who could prove a major threat is CAS Honda's Josh Coppins, who has shared the podium with Everts and Pichon in the last four GPs and will surely be one of their strongest rivals - along with Belgian's Kevin Strijbos and Steve Ramon (crowned Belgian Champion last weekend).
However, the man certain to receive the biggest cheer will be former three-times World Champion and AMA Outdoor Champion, Albertyn, who will be coming out of retirement to make his last ever grand prix ride this weekend.

The South African will once more come under the Team Suzuki awning after previously winning the 250cc crown with the Sylvain Geboers-led squad in 1994 and is set to ride the RM-Z450 and bookend his high profile but injury-plagued career with a flourish.

Meanwhile, in the MX2 class, the home crowd will be supporting championship runner-up Rattray, presently the fastest South African rider in the series.

"Of course my plan is to win this GP, it will be so nice to race at home. I've already won three GP's this year, but nothing could replace a win here," said the factory KTM rider who will make one of his last appearances on a 125cc machine before switching to a 250 four-stroke for next season.

Unfortunately for Tyla, his good friend and team-mate Ben Townley has already informed him that he has exactly the same goal, and the battle between the two is expected to be exciting!

But with the MX2 class as unpredictable as ever this season - with eight heat winners and six GP winners - there is a good chance of an upset: Regular heat winners Marc De Reuver and Stephen Sword, veterans Alessio Chiodi, Mickael Maschio and Andrea Bartolini (who, along with Marnicq Bervoets, is retiring after Sunday's race) and up-coming talents Antonio Cairoli, S?bastien Pourcel, Anthony Boissi?re and Aigar Leok are all in with a realistic chance of victory.

Joining Albertyn and GP regulars Rattray, Gareth Swanepoel, Wyatt Avis, Neville Bradshaw and Colin Dugmore will be a swarm of local wild-cards all looking to impress the GP paddock and perhaps clinch a full time ride for next season.

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