28 Apr On yer bike: Alfie Cox
With business operations curtailed by the nation-wide lockdown, FMM Curator Wayne Harley looks back on one of his motorcycling heroes…
As most of us boys and some girls grow up, we dream of racing bikes and cars. But for Alfie, a young boy in Pietermaritzburg, a dream was not enough. He left school at 16 and decided to go and live his vision, so took a job as a motorcycle mechanic and saved up until he could buy a motocross bike. That same drive and passion saw him go on to win the Natal Championship in that very same year, riding a 200cc Honda that he bought with his savings and trading-in his 50cc commuter bike.
Alfie’s early years saw him riding Japanese motorcycles that took him to a dominant run of Roof of Africa wins, the first in 1988, which was also the same year he was awarded Springbok colours. Eight more victories followed in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 2001. Of the nine wins, four were on a Kawasaki and later a Honda, mostly 250cc, but later he moved up to a 500cc KTM, although he was always fond of the 250cc class machines. (Alfie is quoted as saying the bike he most enjoyed riding was his 2003 KTM 250SX.)
Alfie’s move away from the rice rockets began when he was introduced to Butch Hirsch and KTM, and it became clear that the Austrian manufacturer was the way to go if he was to become successful outside the borders of South Africa. With KTM it didn’t take long, and Alfie began winning straight away. On his first outing at the International Six-day Enduro he won four gold medals, following that up with first in class (660cc) in the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai. Then in 1998 a fourth place at his first Paris-Dakar, and in 2001 he was fifth overall with two stage wins. In 2004 Alfie finished fifth again and in 2005 he finished third in his last Paris-Dakar on a bike.
These achievements are just a sample of a stellar career, with other wins and titles including four-time ISDE Gold medalist in Australia, USA, Poland and Italy, and a Trans Namib Desert Race Winner while also winning his class in the Baja 1000. In 1998 Alfie received the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists Motor Sportsman of the Year Award, in 2002 he received the MSA Motorsport Lifetime Achievement Award, and then in 2005 the SAGMJ award again. But Alfie had not quite finished adding to his list of achievements…
In 2003 he started racing for Nissan in the South African Off-Road Racing series and the following year he won Class D of the SAORR Championship, and in 2005 he won the National Off-Road Championship. There was just no keeping that racing sprit down, and in 2006 driving a BAT Special Sandmaster, he won the SA Off-Road Racing Championship again. He later returned to Dakar but this time driving an SMG shared with Jurgen Schroeder from Germany, but never with as much success as he had when he was on two wheels. The pair then attempted the 2010 Dakar with a Glyn Hall Motorsport Nissan Navara and were in the top 10 before an accident put an end to their chances.
Alfie has never strayed far from his roots and today he can be found at his KTM dealership in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu Natal, which may well be the oldest KTM dealer in South Africa.
Alfie Cox – a South African biking legend that we at FMM salute.