PERFORMING a really good impersonation of a character from ‘The Walking Dead’ on this photo is stable patron Warne Rippon, who is kept bravely standing by his wife Wendy and daughter Hannah.
Warne’s best friends have never seen him this pale and shaky and they probably won’t ever either, because the formerly Vaal-based Steel Baron is unlikely to put himself through the event that brought him to the brink of passing out from natural causes – the 2013 Roof Of Africa Rally!
Staged in the mountains of Lesotho during mid-November, the Roof Of Africa is Southern Africa’s premier off-road race for motorcycles with the reputation of being the most challenging and sometimes dangerous off-road race in the World.
For Warne (47), whose business prowess in the competitive steel industry is legendary, becoming a true ‘Man Of Steel’ was a challenge borne from his love for motorbikes – a growing hobby over the last five years.
Warne decided this year to take on the ‘Roof’s’ notoriously treacherous terrain on his KTM350 Off-Road Issue, bumping and grinding his way through an often terrifying three-day, 250km journey.
After more than 18 hours of pain and suffering in sweltering sunshine, Warne was one of only 52 bikers to complete the 2013 renewal of what is popularly known as ‘The Mother Of All Ordeals’ – 350 other contestants didn’t make it to the finish line, some literally falling by the wayside, others jelly-kneed with fatigue and simply unable to mount their Iron Ponies for the last stretch.
“Only 11% of the entries made it this year and with some well-acknowledged South African riders and a good few internationals among them this is something I am very proud of,” Warne tells mikedekockracing.com.
As humble and down-to-earth as he is, Warne’s always up for a challenge and this is arguably the ultimate test for mind and body. “I’m not a fitness junkie or anything like that – just a bike lover, and the allure of this unique event pulled me closer and eventually in. It was unbelievably tough, without my support team (wife, et al) who followed in my tracks I probably wouldn’t have made it. The last several hours was a daze – I don’t remember much except saying to myself all along, ‘keep going, keep going…’. I’m glad it’s over!”
Will he do it again? Being a proven Man Of Steel, and now that the ‘Roof’ is slowly becoming a good memory, who knows? For now, however, Warne and Wendy are looking forward to seeing their charge Umgiyo take to the start of Saturday’s Dingaans on Summer Cup Day.
“Umgiyo is a decent horse and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. We’re looking forward to the race,” says Warne, who is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure having owned a few top runners over the last ten years, most notably a share in star filly Sun Classique, who was taken to the top in South Africa by trainer Mike Bass and then to international stardom by Mike de Kock.
“We have a couple of horses in training with both Mikes and we continue to enjoy our racing,” comments Warne, who has moved with his family from the dusty planes of Southern Gauteng to a farm near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He still commutes regularly to Gauteng for business, but won’t be flying his helicopter to Johannesburg for Mike de Kock’s annual Christmas party on Friday.
“I’d love to have been there and I have no problem in travelling up to Joburg, but it’s the travelling back that worries me. Mike’s parties are harder to recover from than the Roof Of Africa!”
Photos from www.roofofafrica.org.