Who’d have thought getting ready for a major international motorcycle competition would be so complicated? We’re eight months away from the Dakar Rally, and we’re already balls-deep in Dakar prep and general rally-bike related faffery. And with the first Dakar qualification rally looming (Andalucía Rally, 12th – 16th May 2021), we’re dangerously close to panic stations.
If you haven’t already read about our plans to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally, you can do so here. Or watch the video here. Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty more video content coming your way. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate though, it takes ages to edit (Fagan’s burning the candle at both ends at the moment, trying to get as much up on the YouTube channel as pos), so I thought I’d give you an update on where we are with the Dakar prep.
First things first, we’ve finally got our International Race licenses. And what a ball-ache that was. Before you can even apply for it, you’ve got to have a medical and do an anti-doping course. On the surface of it, that sounds reasonably standard doesn’t it? I’ve done a few big international races and had to have medicals before, but none like this. For international ‘rally raid’ events, which is what the Dakar Rally is, it’s a bit more in depth. They say you need an echocardiogram test and an exercise tolerance electrocardiogram test with a cardiologists report. That’s on top of the normal eye test and doctors medical examination. And that stuff doesn’t come cheap! We managed to get a stonking deal (because we both turned up for it together) and paid £500 each; but it’s usually well over a grand a piece.
Before this whole episode, I didn’t know what an echocardiogram and exercise tolerance electrocardiogram test was. In fact even now, after doing it, I’m not sure what it was all about. The first bit, the echocardiogram, was easy. It was done by a nice lady with one of those ultrasound machines that they use on you when your preggers’. She said she could see into my heart with it, and was looking for any abnormalities. Apparently there were none.
The next bit was the exercise tolerance electrocardiogram test. This was more intense. After kindly shaving my chest for me, a man called Seamus hooked me up to a computer and put me on a treadmill. He kept an eye on my hearts behaviour, as the treadmill and my heartrate got faster and faster. I don’t know how fast I was running but my heart was doing 200bpm at one point; I thought it was going to come out my chest. Luckily for all involved, it didn’t.
Then, once we’d sat in front of our laptops for about five hours learning all about how dangerous it is to use drugs, all that was standing in between us and an International FIM License was £168. More expense.
But that was the easy bit. Because to qualify for the Dakar Rally, we need to finish the Andalucía Rally. And to finish the Andalucía rally, we need some bikes. And we haven’t got any bikes. Luckily, our Team Captain and Dakar-Dad Mick Extance has agreed to lend us a pair of his bikes (and helped us prep them), because he’s a top, top bloke.
Mick, his son Adam and his right-hand-man Rich, pulled out all the stops to get Al and me a pair of KTM 450 EXC enduro bikes, all rally-kitted up, just in time for the van to take them down to Spain… And then we had to strip them down and rebuild them when Rich spotted an amendment in the rules that meant we had to change the way the navigation towers were mounted. That also involved a 600 mile round trip to collect some £300 parts. But we got there in the end.
You’d think that would be the end of the dicking about wouldn’t you. But no, not in a post Brexit, covid-riddled world. Nobody in the world seems to have any decisive answers about whether or not we need a Carnet to take the bikes to Spain; cue hour-long phone calls to everyone we can think of to try and get an answer.
And of the million different types of covid tests available, only some of them are accepted by the airline companies, the boarder people and the race organisers. Obviously only the most expensive ones. And there’s a very specific time they need to be taken in order to get the results and be able to get on a plane; which just so happens to be when we are supposed to be racing the 125 at Teesside. I think we’ve found a way round all of the problems so far, but there’s been plenty of head scratching. We wouldn’t have managed it without the help of Mick, Adam and Rich.
Thank you, thank you, thank you
And we wouldn’t have got as far as we have without your help either, so thank you to everyone that has donated a few quid to help us get this project off the ground, from the bottoms of our fully functioning hearts. We set up the GoFundMe page because we want to take you along for the ride, every step of the way. When Al’s crying because he’s got arm pump, I’ll make sure there’s a camera pointing at him. And when I’m trying to change a wheel in the middle of the desert, he’ll be pointing one at me. We’re going to share the whole Dakar journey with you from all the prep at home to hopefully finishing the thing.
And the same goes for the Andalucía Rally. We’re going to document as much of it as we can in the glorious medium of video, as well as keeping you in the loop on the website and the social meedz. So stay tuned. And remember, if you want to join the team and chuck a few quid into the pot, we’ll love you forever.