Imagine the frustration if you have to pull out of the Dakar Rally for injury or mechanical, or for whatever reason. Imagine if you are almost at the end of the race in a good position and lose all that hard work in an instant due to a navigational mistake. By Christophe Barriere-Varju
In the article Dakar Rally: What Do You Do When Things Go Wrong? I mentioned that the Dakar Rally only constant is that something will happen. It always does.
You can be leading comfortably, make a navigational mistake and lose it all. Marc Coma himself knows this very well when he crashed out of the 2007 Dakar Rally from Kayes to Tambacounda in Senegal – he had such a massive lead as well. Cyril Despres inherited the lead and the overall win after starting the day an hour adrift of Coma. A massive heartbreak for Coma.
Racers have been emotionally disturbed for earning navigational penalties the day before and make fatal mistakes trying to gain the time back the next day. But you can never make time back, all you can do is not make anymore mistakes.
In the 40th Edition, French sensation and leader Adrien Van Beveren crashed out 3 km from the end of the stage. You can see his determination to want to continue but his body is telling him no. He was leading coming into the 10th stage. A heartbreak for Beveren.
Toby Price, after an herculean effort recovering from a broken leg the year before was sitting in 4th position overall coming into the 10th stage with a potential shot at a podium spot. Toby got lost and moved from being only 7’35” to now 50 minutes away from the leader. Matthias Walkner did not make any mistake and moved from 3rd overall to 1st with a 39’42” advantage. A heartbreak for Price.
But heartbreaks are not just for the factory riders. I crashed out of my first Dakar Rally, and while it was a tough pill to swallow after training for so many years and saving enough money to participate as a privateer, it probably was not as much as a heart break as my “Ambulance Team mate.” A German privateer rider that had to abandon from crash and mechanicals five years in a row! For the story, he successfully completed his first Dakar Rally in South America in 2009. When I asked him “will you be here next year?” he said, “nope, I have given it enough.”
The toughest heartbreak I saw was 20 or so kms away from the final Hotel in Dakar in the 2007 edition, the race was pretty much finished. It was really congested on the road as you would expect in Dakar, I was riding along being happy to have completed the race and saw a bunch of people gathering, then I saw a bike, I saw some boots then a cover over a racer. Sadly, 42 years old Eric Aubijoux died from a road collision after completing the penultimate 14th stage.
There are many more Dakar Rally heartbreak stories, the point is that the race is not over until you set off the bike after the finish podium.
When something like this happens during the race, what you see when you are racing, the medical staff, the helicopters attending racers, and what you experience yourself has a massive mental and emotional impact. I talk a lot about physical, mental, and emotional preparation prior to attempting a race like the Dakar Rally. When these events occur, the mental focus must be so strong that it needs to annihilate your negative emotional response instantly.
Tomorrow is another day and it starts with a full reset. Nothing can be done to undo anything, you have to deal with it. Unfortunately, many racers let their emotion take over and attempt to right a wrong. This is dangerous, and I have seen many racers get hurt or worse when this happens.
If you are a Dakar Rally fan, make sure to watch 9x Award Winner Film, DREAM RACER. Dream Racer is the only film in the Dakar History to have won any awards and it is the most awarded motorcycle film in history. Available on Blu-Ray or DVD, or you can watch it On Demand right away.