One of my favourite things about racing motorbikes is that there are so many ways to do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have a go at quite a few of them, and I like them all. But I think I’ve got a new favourite. It‘s a test of riding skill, endurance, navigation as well as how good you are at looking after your bike. It is motorcycle rally racing, and I fell in love with it in Andalucía a few weeks ago.
It’s safe to say that my debut rally didn’t go to plan. Fagan and I, as well as Ant and Gwion, our Dakar Rally teammates all headed to Spain to compete in the Andalucía Rally as part of the qualifying process for the Dakar Rally. The plan was to get to the end of this one unscathed, to cement our entry for the main event in 2022. Unfortunately, for me that didn’t happen, all thanks to an engine failure on day one. But I’ll tell you what did happen… I got the bug.
What is it?
That doesn’t mean I caught a tummy bug and had diarrhoea all week (that’s what the Spanish tap water’s for). I mean I caught the rally raid bug. In a nutshell, a motorbike rally is a bit like an off-road enduro, but instead of doing multiple laps round a long circuit, you ride from point A to point B. And instead of the course being closed off and well-marked, you have to navigate your way through the course using a ‘road book’; which is a long list of instructions, diagrams and compass headings that you mount to the front of your bike.
It doesn’t sound that hard, does it? Well it is! in fact its one of the hardest disciplines of motorcycle sport I have ever tried. As well as being as physically demanding as you’d expect of any off-road bike race, the concentration levels required are beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Every competition I have ridden in in the past, I’ve either known exactly where I’m going, or it’s been fairly well marked out. But it’s not in a rally. If you don’t keep a seriously keen eye on your road book, you will get lost. You might also miss a speed control zone and land yourself with a fat time penalty. And a cash fine.
Trying to go as fast as you can, over terrain you’ve never seen before is hard enough as it is. But when you’re trying to do that whilst keeping one eye on your road book, it’s next level. And now I’ve given it a go, I’ve got a new found respect for the lads that can do it well. It took some serous getting used to, but once I got the hang of linking what I was seeing on the ground with the notes on my roadbook, I was like a pig in the proverbial.
Sadly, it didn’t last long thanks to the aforementioned engine mishap, but it was incredible whilst it did. And I think there is something a bit more special about racing from A to B, rather than just round in circles. There’s something a bit more purposeful about it. Of course, it’s still just a good way to turn a load of money into noise. But it’s a really good way to do it.
I can only imagine how much I would have enjoyed it if I got further than halfway through day one. The other boys, Al, Ant and Gwion all did make it to the end; despite them all having a few minor (and some major) problems of their own.
So it looks as though they will have all qualified for the Dakar Rally. I might have to find some more cash and enter the Morocco Rally though; oh and finish it, if I want to go to Saudi Arabia in January. Does anybody want to buy a kidney?
On a serious note, we’ve had an incredible response to the GoFundMe Dakar campaign, so thank you to everyone that’s donated. If you want to help out, and be part of the team, you can do so here. Every penny helps, and we’re so grateful to everyone that’s got involved. Thank you, thank you, thank you.