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First Dakar done and dusted

Navigating treacherous sand dunes in the Saudi Arabian desert for 13 days while racing against some of the world’s best off-road endurance riders is tough! But for 23-year-old Brad Cox, competing in the Dakar has always been his dream.

After 13 action-packed rounds and in spite of a leaking fuel tank, Cato Ridge’s young Brad Cox did incredibly well to complete the Dakar Rally 2022 and fulfil a dream he’d been working towards for more than two years.

Finishing 25th overall, two podiums (second Junior and third Rookie) and an overall fifth place in Rally 2 Class – an achievement that pushed him to third in the World Rally Championship rankings – Brad might well be the envy and hero of any local enduro rider. But it’s not only the accolades he’s after … he’s determined to continue his family’s legacy in motorsport.

Sam Sunderland (Dakar 2022 Overall Winner) and Bradley Cox (Dakar Rookie – Cato Ridge, KZN, RSA). Image: Supplied

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“I got my first bike when I was about three or four. It’s a really cool story actually. In one of the past Dakar’s, they offered those who won a stage in the race the opportunity to get a bike of choice from KTM or a cash bonus. My dad chose the bike and the rest, as they say, is history.”

By the age of seven, Brad had already won his first championship, and recalls his competitive nature.

“At that age, you always want to do better than the last race and better than your competitors. I think that’s what drove me as a youngster. And being born into a racing family, it was bound to happen that I would ride and race.”

Despite having 13-times Dakar participant (on both two and four wheels) Alfie Cox as his dad, Brad’s Dakar entry was never cast in stone. He dreamed of motocross and owning the title of world champ, and with that goal in mind, he left home at 15 to live in Belgium and compete in the European Moto-X championship.

“Leaving my family at that age to chase a dream meant I had no option but to wake up every day and train to achieve the goal. Everything was going according to plan until a few injuries made results and sponsors harder to come by, so I came home with the intention of taking a year off.”

Except that while back home he entered a local enduro for fun and very nearly won it. A ride with the KTM SA Factory team came up shortly after and nine national titles later, Brad was lined up for his first Dakar and second ever rally raid, after an impressive debut at the Rallye du Maroc.

A massive feat of endurance, mental tenacity and physical stamina, this year’s Dakar took place in Saudi Arabia, where unfamiliar terrain forced riders and crews to decipher the nuances of navigation of the desert and “avoid losing bearings in a hodgepodge of tracks”. Completing it was testament to incredible skill and dedicated training.

“Obviously, you need to be physically fit to ride and I put in as much time as I could to give me the edge. In a typical week I spend hours on the bike, in the gym and on the training bicycle to get strong. I split my training between motocross (for the speed) and enduro (for technical), and for the Dakar navigation and road book training was vital.”

Competing for BAS World KTM Racing on his KTM 450, Brad started the rally strong, showcasing impressive navigational skills and good speed in the first half of the race. Unfortunately he hit a rock in one of the canyons which caused his fuel tank to leak, but drawing on his resources and years of working with his father, he was able to repair his bike. While the setback put him out of the hunt for top position, he was able to complete the race and make his way through to the bivouac.

“In addition to having physical strength and endurance, having a strong mind is a critical part of racing.”

Brad says it also comes down to how much you can suffer when your body is hurting and you still have another lap or 200km to go … plus having the ability to block that out and go to the end as if nothing is wrong.

“What an incredible experience to get my first rally done and dusted. I exceeded all my expectations which I think was the best part. I know how hard it is to make this your career, but I love racing. It’s where my passion lies.”

And who is Brad behind the visor and dust? “I’m a goal-driven guy who sees the glass half full. I feed off winning and achieving solid results so when I set my focus, I will go as hard and fast as I can until I reach that goal.”

What makes him happy? “Being able to race and call it my job. Not many people get to do that and I’m very grateful to all those who have and continue to support me and my racing dreams. What is as important to me? My family dynamic. I think it’s quite special having a dad who raced at the highest level, my mom supporting him over the years and now being involved in my racing career and that of my little brother Trey. Family support makes anything possible.”

Brad’s main objective now is to secure a KTM factory ride and race the rally format full time. “I love racing so much that I will still race on the South African circuits with the KTM factory team. Trey is also an up-and-coming racer and in the same team for motocross racing, so it will be fun to watch him grow and progress too.”

For young aspiring riders, Brad says setting small, achievable goals is the way to go.

“The younger you get into sport the better, and practice makes perfect. The amount of time you put in is what you will get out. With small goals anything is possible. The Dakar was the steppingstone of my rally career and I’m ready for many more great years to come.”

Details: You can follow Brad on IG: @bradcox34 and on YouTube and Facebook: Bradley Cox

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