HE is simply the best. Young Daiyaan "Dee" Manuel of Zimbabwe reasserted himself as the best junior motocross rider in the southern African region when he clinched the 65cc A Class title at the end of the 2017 South African National Championship series at Terra Topia just outside Johannesburg on Saturday. Manuel, a 12-year-old Grade Seven pupil at St John's Preparatory School in Harare, buried himself in glory when he swept the board on Saturday, winning both his heats in the 65cc A Class during the seventh and final round of the tough South African National Championship series.
The talented young Zimbabwean rider went into Saturday's race leading in the 65cc A Class charts with 267 points, 10 ahead of his nearest rival Tyler Tarantino of South Africa and a first or second-place finish could have guaranteed him the overall title for the 2017 season. And Manuel was in an uncompromising mood on Saturday as he dominated a strong field of 24 riders in both heats to collect the maximum 50 points which were good enough to see him being crowned the 2017 65cc A Class Champion.
This was Manuel's second South African Nationals title in three years after he clinched the 2014 50cc Class crown in 2014 before he moved up to 65cc A Class. What made Saturday's victory sweeter for Manuel is that he also relegated his nearest rival in the title race, Tarantino, into seventh place while second and third place on the day went to Wian du Plooy and Troy Muraour, both of South Africa.
Another talented young Zimbabwean rider Emmanuel Bako, a Grade Six pupil at Mai Grace Mugabe Junior School in Mazowe, was also in the mix in the 65cc A Class on Saturday and he did well to finish in fourth place. And Bako, who is sponsored by Harare's Prolific Boreholes, was on hand to congratulate his compatriot Manuel after he took the first step on the podium. Temba Mazvimbakupa of the Zimbabwe Motorsport Federation was also among the first people to congratulate Manuel after his remarkable achievement on Saturday afternoon.
"Two years ago when 'Dee' (Daiyaan Manuel) and Emmanuel Bako were still riding in the 50cc Class, I did predict that we had champions in the making. Sadly, I wasn't taken seriously. So, I'm glad that just 24 months down the road Zimbabwe has bagged the South Africa 65cc A Class championship. I can assure you that the best is yet to come from Daiyaan Manuel. He has the potential of becoming a World Champion in his favourite sport of motocross and let me take this opportunity to thank his parents (Junior and Yasmin), his sponsors, including Fuchs Silkolene of Zimbabwe, and Gary Grainger, the chairman of the Bogwheelers Club who run this sport in this country, for a job well done," Mazvimbakupa said.
Michelle Wasmuth also chipped in: "Well done you champion, so proud of you Dee. You deserve it all. To Yasmin and Junior Manuel, well done on a great achievement this year, you both need a BIG pat on the back, your boy is a star."
On Saturday, Manuel was emulated by fellow young Zimbabwean rider Regan Wasmuth who took the first step on the podium in the 125cc High School Class, but he failed to walk away with the overall title. Second place went to one of South Africa's top riders Slade Smith. Another top Zimbabwean rider Davin Cocker was also in action at Terra Topia on Saturday where he won both his heats in the Pro Mini Class to take the first step on the podium.
Manuel, Cocker and Wasmuth are all members of Harare-based Grainger Racing Team KTM which is sponsored by Fuchs Silkolene and run by Gary Grainger who is also the chairman of the Bogwheelers Club. In fact, this has been a very good year for the sport of motocross in Zimbabwe as the country's top female rider Tanya Muzinda (13) also sent some shock waves in England where she won two bronze medals in two high profile international race meetings in May and last month.
Muzinda, the poster girl of Zimbabwean motocross, won her first bronze medal at the HL Racing British Master Kids Championships at Mildenhall's Motoland track in May when she finished third overall in the 85cc B Class (small wheel). She also wrote her own piece of history during that event as she became the first female rider to win a heat since its inception in 2014. Muzinda followed this up by winning another bronze medal in the 85cc Class during last month's British Girls National Championships at the famous Wroxton track in Oxford, England.
This year also saw Zimbabwe finishing second in the 2017 FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations Championships which were held in Botswana in August. Manuel and Bako were both part of Team Zimbabwe in Botswana where the former also swept the board in the 65cc A Class while the latter came second to help their country to finish second overall behind continental heavyweights South Africa.