Dubai based Gecko Motorcycles have joined up with Honda to field a 7 strong team of riders in this years Australian Safari rally. Spearheaded by Sean Linton and Steve Blackney, Gecko Honda Team will be the first time the UAE will have been be represented by an international team in
the events 22 year history, though Blackney has travelled the distance to race there on 3 previous occasions.
Riding the Gecko/Honda CRF 450X RR, a race winning design which was developed here in the UAE by Gecko Motorcycles, the Australian Safari will be the first of 2 of this years hardest cross country rallies that Gecko Honda Team intend to enter, along with the UAE Desert Challenge in October.
“We started building and developing the Gecko/Honda CRF 450X RR last year to ready ourselves for the UAE Desert Challenge” explains Linton, founder of Gecko Motorcycles. “The bike surpassed all our expectations with a 1st in Class, 1st GCC (Middle East Entry), and 8th Overall but the best and most satisfying fact for me was every 450X RR we built, which totaled 8 bikes, all finished with no mechanical or reliability problems. Yes this had a lot to do with the riders but without the right machinery it would never have been possible”.
Linton, a top five regional rider in the UK Enduro series from 1985-1998, has consistently scored top 3 finishes in off-road Middle East and UAE Motorcycle Championships and has participated in the UAE Desert Challenge from 2001 to date (recording 2 class wins, 2 GCC wins, 3 team overall wins and 3 top 10 finishes). Along with international events such as the Roof of Africa, which is recognised as one of the toughest enduro’s in the world, culminating in the class win for 450cc in the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge on his Gecko Motorcycle prepared Honda CRF 450X RR.
Blackney is a nine times Middle East moto-cross champion and a veteran of rally raids. Having competed in the UAE Desert Challenge since 1997, with regular top 10 finishes in the event including a third overall in 2001 Blackney travelled to Australia to race the Safari in 2000 and 2001 when it was based in the Northern Territories and most recently in 2003 in New South Wales.
Blackney, who secured stage wins in both the 2001 and 2003 Safari’s said: “The diversity of racing in Australia brings me back once again for my fourth and final attempt at the race. This time I am part of a great team and I'm very much looking forward to the atmosphere and camaraderie that will go with that, instead of being out there on my own. Rally raids like the Australian Safari offer a real chance to be at one with the unpredictability and challenge of nature on a level that so few people in the world will ever get to experience.”
Completing Gecko Honda Team, the UAE’s first international rally raid team are Paul Welling, David Dubois, Jason Sockett, Laurie Lee and Jonathan Walley, each having a successful race history here in the UAE and in their home countries.
The internationally renowned Australian Safari, often referred to as the Southern Hemisphere’s ‘Paris to Dakar’, will for the first time call Western Australia home. Starting in Kununurra on August 24 the Safari will traverse 5,500 kilometres of gruelling outback terrain over nine days via a route that will take them through tropical, desert and forest terrain, before finishing in Perth on September 1.