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Where are they now?- Glenn Hoffmann | Columns | Gassit Garage

The crazy kid with the parrot was a pioneer in bikes and buggies

The Wynn’s Safari attracted many zany characters, so when an 18 year old rookie turned up at Sydney Showground with a stuffed parrot sewn onto his shoulder few spectators took much notice. Nine days later at the finish line in Darwin Glenn Hoffmann received a special Sportsmanship Award; such was the impression he’d made on his fellow competitors.

Hoffo went on to compete in more Australian Safaris than any other rider, winning seven coveted Finishers Medallions. And whilst he may never have achieved victory he was the first competitor to put KTM on the Safari podium with a third outright in 1995 and a second in 1996; breaking Honda’s decade of dominance. Yet it was Honda Hoffo turned to when forming his own rally team in 2001.

Glenn Hoffmann Racing (GHR) immediately became a major force in cross-country racing, winning seven Safaris and countless podiums with riders such as Jamie Cunningham, Ben Grabham and the Smith siblings, Todd and Jake. Ever the innovator, Hoffo organised the inaugural Safari tour operation and later the provision of complete ‘turnkey’ race packages to time poor racers and overseas competitors. Whether in the saddle or pacing the bivouac he’s experienced almost three decades of cross-country competition.

“My most difficult Safari was back in 1993 holding the lead over Mick Goddard when my bike died. Only eight riders finished with the winning time over 50 hours across eight days. In the final decade of the Safari the winning times were little more than 25 hours. Not that the riders were any less tough, just that the Safari became a series of sprints over considerably reduced distances.”

Whilst GHR fettled Hondas had dominated the Safari, Finke and other national epics it was a massive step up for the team to tackle Dakar in 2011; yet Hoffo was prepared to tread where even Honda Racing Corporation feared to go. And, at the least, proved the mass production based units could go the distance. “Once Honda decided to field a factory team at Dakar it was always going to be the end of GHR as, domestically, we had nothing left to achieve” said Hoffo.

However, his forward thinking was apparent when he turned up in a race buggy at the 2012 Safari. GHR Honda riders Todd and Jake Smith took the quinella. Honda rider Paul Smith (no relation) won the Quad division and back there, in the dust, was none other than team owner and rookie Glenn Hoffmann winning the ‘buggy’ division. “It was a natural progression” laughs Hoffo “with age comes the cage.” The concept was to assist riders transition from two wheels to four wheels on the Australian Safari. “The buggy is as close to a dirtbike as you can get with a steering wheel” he explains “you’re on your own, there’s no screen, it’s cold and it’s muddy or dusty, or both. You’re exposed to all the elements; but with the benefit of a roof if things go arse up.”

“After the 2012 Safari I was invited to an off-road event. I’d never been before and had to get a special licence to compete. By the second heat I was on the front row next to a 6 litre Chev. which would wheel stand off the line.” Hoffo was hooked. “Fast forward twelve months, back at the same track I put the buggy on pole, won the event outright and went on to win the Championship as a rookie.” Since then Hoffo has been the only driver to finish on the outright Offroad Championship podium four years in succession; and all in a 750cc belt driven buggy running against 6 litre V8 powered cross-country Trophy Trucks.

Long gone are the days when he had to sew a parrot to his shoulder to get attention.

By Peter Whitaker