Words & Photo: Elza Thiart-Botes
When the big 450cc-powered off-road motorcycle comes blasting past and left in a trail of dust, one do not realise that the petite Taye Perry (22) from Pretoria is the rider. Long dark hair billows from underneath the white helmet and her attitude says she is in control – the young Perry cannot wait for the 2014 off-road racing season to start.
Taye Perry is a short (1.65m) bubbly young lady who has been doing off-road racing since the age of 15 when she competed on a 125cc motorcycle. Her latest results say it all – her commitment and passion for racing resulted in her finishing second in the Ladies Class Challenge after she finished all seven rounds of the 2013 national off-road season. Racing for Team Bert Smith Racing Powered by RAD KTM she also walked away with a double victory after winning the Ladies Class on both days of the gruelling Mantswabisi Botswana Desert completing almost a thousand kilometres over two days.
Those two victories completed her list of 29 class wins after completing 102 races in her short racing career and she plans to add a few more to her list this year. Specialising in off-road racing, Perry will again form part of Team Bert Smith All Stars Racing Powered by RAD KTM and will compete in the Combined Ladies Class National Championship. She will also compete in the competitive Gauteng-based PS Portable Shade GOC Series and will tackle these shorter 180 kilometre sprint events with the same enthusiasm she does the longer and more serious national events.
It all started in 2006 when the bike racing bug bit her at the tender age of 15. Taye’s father (Hein) used to have a bike and although it was quite natural that she might like the racing, the family probably did not expect the model-type girl to like it so much that she made it her ‘career’. In 2007 she competed in the Junior National Off-road Championship and finished all the races and the next year she took her racing to another level and was the highest placed female rider in every race she participated in.
In the same year she attempted to race quads and although she scored podium positions, she realised that she preferred to compete on two-wheels. In 2009 she joined the Junior Team Suzuki as well as the all-women team (Team Perfect Look Racing) and started competing on national level. Again the results and the trophies streamed in.
A year later she moved on to a bigger bike and won the Ladies Class of the GOC Off-road Series competing with a 250cc-powered motorcycle. She won this class again in 2011 and also competed in Super Motard racing where she finished fourth for the day in her first national attempt! While competing in more Super Motard races, she was still focused on her off-road racing career and it paid off as she scored a hat-trick by winning the Ladies Class in the GOC series for the third year.
Perry trains for her racing by riding her motorcycle after work together with members of the Bert Smith team. Although she is a real girly-girl, towing her bike on a trailer to wherever she needs to be and off-loading it, is no problem for her. She usually meets the rest of the team at tracks outside Pretoria where they train together while she is also involved in training other women and even youngsters. Her team also assists with the set-up of her motorcycle – it had to be lowered so that her feet could touch the ground – and together with the perfect suspension settings, it is now ‘personalised’ for her.
Racing in dusty and muddy conditions kitted out with boots, a chest protector and protection for the knees and elbows as well as a huge neck brace and a helmet with goggles, does not mean Taye Perry cannot be a real girl. A close-up look will reveal the use of waterproof make-up and a curly ready-to-go hair style to prove that she is a feminine off-road motorcycle racer.
A busy racing schedule awaits Perry who will compete in seven national off-road events all over the country as well as eight GOC races. She hopes to be competing in the Namaqua African Rally, a ‘Dakar-style’ Rally Raid event that takes place from 25 April to 3 May in the Western Cape Coast where riders will have to complete more than 350 kilometres a day for six days!
Taye Perry is serious about her responsibility towards her team and sponsors as well as towards women in motorsport in South Africa, specifically women participating in dirt-bike racing, and wants to promote her beloved sport so as to draw more woman to compete.
Perry will compete in the Seeding Event outside Bronkhorstspruit on February 1st. This event will determine the starting order for the first round of the national off-road championship, the Diamond Route 400 at Wolmaransstad in the North-West Province.