I'm lucky enough to get invites to some amazing events, and this last one from the folk at Motul was one for the books. You'd think that being involved in all things racing and motorsports for close on 20 years now, that I'd have experienced just about everything out there. Oddly, I'd never attended a cross country event though, and now that I have, it's surely not going to be the last. As I've said in previous posts, Motul South Africa has been on a massive branding offensive since OEM Lubricants have taken charge, and it's been working. I'm yet to attend a professional race series that's not strewn with Motul banners and logos, and in the world of offroad cross country racing in the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) the premium lubricant company has a pretty firm imprint. Besides sponsoring events, the company also sponsors some race teams and also individual sportsmen, and that brings me to Red-Lined Motorsport. Also known as Red-Lined Adventures, the team competes in the SACCS in a monster of a Nissan Navara piloted by experienced wheelman Terence Marsh. Every driver needs a navigator, and for this race that seat was reserved for Joey Evans, a man who needs no introduction but will get one anyway.
First off, we know that Joey can only be a great guy because he attended the same high school as me, but besides that the man really is a legend. Seriously, Joey is a self-confessed adrenaline junky and has one of the most amazing stories to tell, which he often does as an inspirational speaker. A keen racer of off road motorbikes since he was young, Joey set his sights on competing in the one of the toughest races on the planet - The Dakar. Back in 2007 he was in a serious accident that crushed his spinal cord and left him paralysed from just below the chest, and as expected, his dreams were shattered, on hold. Yes, I said on hold. Doctors gave Joey a 10% chance of ever walking again but 10% is still not a 0, and instead of the accident stopping Joey from achieving his goals, it made him more determined than ever. After years of painful and intensive therapy, Joey not only managed to walk again, but was eventually fit enough to ride his bike and compete in the Dakar. Joey didn't just enter the race, he was the ONLY South African to finish. You don't really get a better story than that; all the amazing successes and hardships are covered in detail in his book - From Para to Dakar.
There's plenty info available about Joey Evans online, but I thought I'd get you some different information by asking ten quick fire questions instead of doing an in-depth interview.
First off, in what year were you a baby owl in Norkem Park High?
I started there in 1998 and managed to klap high school in just 5 years against the betting man’s odds.
You’ve always been a two-wheel man, how different did it feel being in the Red-Lined Motoring Adventure roaring four-wheel drive V8?
It was insane! Racing 2-wheel KTMs will always be my first love but that car is like a four-wheel motocross bike! I was blown away with what the car and Terrance were capable of.
On the KTM, you’re in charge and you decide when and how to apply the gas. How different is it being in the navigator seat with someone else in control?
At first I kept looking out the windscreen picking the best lines and obstacles the whole time. It took a bit of practice (and losing my place in the roadbook) to realize I needed to just focus 100% on the navigation and trust Terence to keep us alive. His life was as much in my hands as mine was in his.
Was it easy to learn the language of navigation?
Because of the bike racing I fully understood the roadbook and where we needed to go. The challenge was definitely trying to put all the pictures into words. The fact that that the car is much faster than a bike just put the pressure on even more. I felt like that old Leon Schuster skit where the cakes keep coming off the conveyor belt faster than the guy could catch them.
Did you have any scary moments out there?
Hell yeah. About 400km of them. But seriously Terence has some proper driving skills and so we fortunately never had any close calls serious enough to cause soiled linen.
How did you feel physically during and after the race?
Pretty good. I worried about getting motion sickness but fortunately that wasn’t a problem. There was one really rough section that shook me up good and proper but otherwise nothing that a few anti-inflammatories didn’t sort out.
Have you tried racing one of these Nissan monsters yourself?
On the day we went out for a quick pre-race test run, Terence gave me a chance to take it out for a lap. Now THAT was a once in a lifetime experience! I’m also pretty sure that Terence has never felt that nervous in the car before. I also think we owe a farmer for a couple rows of mielies.
Has this experience inspired you to try your hand at race in a car, or are you sticking to the KTM?
This boy's blood is orange, but man if I won the lottery I’m pretty sure you would find a Red-Lined Nissan nestled amongst the orange sea of bikes.
What’s next for Joey Evans?
My main focus at the moment is growing my corporate speaking business. My goal is to share my story all over the world and at the same time hook up with some locals for a ride too! I have a cool idea for another big adventure too but it’s early days on that still....
As well as being an accomplished racer, you’re also an inspirational speaker. Let's end off with an inspirational Joey Evans quote.
Haha - let’s keep it simple - “Do the things you think of.”
On to Red-Lined Motorsport then... The company specialises in not only building Dakar-spec off road vehicles, but it offers corporates, or anyone else that wants to try, high-speed passenger rides and driver training in the Namibian dunes. The company also races in the aforementioned SACCS where driver (and company CEO) Terence Marsh campaigns one of their specially prepared Nissan Navaras. These things are monsters fitted with Nissan's VK50VE lump, which is a 5.0-litre V8 that kicks out 390hp and 500Nm and that's mated to a sequential 6-speed Sadev transmission. The suspension is obviously the best of the best too, including a double wishbone setup in front with a live rear axle and Reiger shocks all round. Seeing one of these blast off the line is mind-blowing, but the BF Goodrich tyres manage to afford an unbelievable amount of traction in the dirt.
Now my invite was to spend a day with all of the above at the 4th round of the SACCS called the Atlas Copco Bronkhorstspruit 400 where Terence would drive and Joey would switch from two wheels to four to try his hand at navigating. As I said, this was my first time attending one of these events, and once I had walked around the pics checking out the different cars in the different classes, I was going to watch the start of the race and then chill until they returned, hoping to snap one or two cool shots of the Navara in action. That was not to be, and the new Navara I'd been given for the weekend began to make more sense. While the racers well, race, the crews sort of run ahead on more direct roads to keep tabs on the cars and checkpoints. With a Navara at my disposal, I was able to get to a few of the checkpoints before the Red-Lined Navara and set myself up to get some action shots. The thrill of the chase, the convoy of 4x4s, getting into position for some photos and dodging dust clouds was absolutely awesome. It's something I could do for days on end.
The all-new Nissan Navara is pretty wicked I must say. It was my first time behind the wheel of one, huge thanks to Motul for hooking me up. I was given the 2.3D LE 4x2 DC AT to use as the chase car at the Bronkhorstspruit 400 and as expected, the harshly corrugated sand roads, mud and soft silt-like sand were all easily navigated, although in some sections I did have to be a little lighter on the throttle to keep it straight. Of course that wouldn't be a problem in the daddy 4x4 version, but unless you go offroad daily, the 4x2 is more than enough bakkie. There's 140kW available from the turbodiesel powerplant, but it's the 450Nm that's addictive with power coming in from as low as 1500rpm. The 7-speed auto box is good too, smooth and I never experienced it hunting for the right gear, changes were smooth and quiet and always matched my throttle input. The cabin layout is typical double cab, but that's not a bad thing. There's ample space, a good infotainment system with navigation and a great seating position on rear comfortable seats. The multifunction steering wheel is chunky in hand and behind that the new instrument cluster gives a nice, modern touch. One thing I liked a lot is the reverse camera that's incorporated into the rearview mirror. Overall, a really solid bakkie with a good engine and transmission combination that's great to drive on the long road or around town, although parking can be a mission sometimes because the Navara is massive, if you live in a complex this ain't being parked in a garage. Just two things bugged me, at my (lack of) height you can see under the bulges in the bonnet while you drive, and then at night the infotainment system shines directly into the centre of the rear window and then back into the centre of your rearview mirror, which I found somewhat distracting. I haven't seen anyone else bothered by these things though, so it could well just be me.
So back to the racing then. It seems like Mr. Evans takes to motorsport like the proverbial duck to water. During the first lap he admitted to a few late calls and one where the team overshot a corner, but other than that it was smooth sailing, so much so that round two was just brilliant. By sailing I mean racing and by smooth I mean rough and bouncy and harsh, but you know what I mean. By the end of the race the Evans / Marsh duo finished 4th in class and 8th overall. It was a top-notch effort from the team, and everyone involved that makes these events happen; Motul SA, Red-Lined Motorsport and Nissan SA. As said, it was the first time for me attending one of these events, and I hope it won't be the last. I had so much fun racing around to get photos, and I'm quite happy with the results too. The only downside to the whole affair? That super fine red dust gets in EVERYWHERE, including all the camera equipment, but I'll be better prepared next time.
As usual, the full album of pics will soon be available on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page - Like √ Share √ Tag √ A huge shoutout goes to Motul SA for this opportunity, very much appreciated, thanks guys!