22 September 2004
Preview – Grand Prix of South Africa.
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."
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