With the Dakar over and a fair bit of worldwide hype about some local builds doing well, cracking an invite to the Motul offices in Kyalami to chat with some regulars involved with car building and support, as well as a privateer who competed was pretty cool. It's one thing hearing stories and anecdotes about life on Dakar in video clips and press releases, but hearing it first-hand and being able to pick up on body language and tone just makes it that much more exciting. The stars of the show were race driver and big boss of Red-Lined Motoring Adventure, Terence Marsh, and privateer racer and Morul Powersport Ambassador, Stuart Gregory, who competed this year in the Original by Motul class on a rented KTM 450 Rally. With Terence being a veteran of Dakar, having attended 8 of them while helping run the teams entered with cars built by his company, he had a lot of insight as to the running of the event and how it's all an intricate business model before anything else. On Stuart's side we got to hear the struggles of a lone privateer bike entrant in the toughest race on the planet.
The invite list saw about 70 or so people gather for a few drinks, some snacks and to listen to some great stories. Terence hosted no less than three teams racing locally-built Nissan Navaras on steroids at the 2019 Dakar, and with that experience comes a wealth of knowledge. There's a lot to it, but basically the event needs to be run like a business, and it's all centered around how the footage from the front runners is sent to the networks to air, well that and making money. This year's event was a bit of a weird one, the guys sort of looped a track in Peru because some deals didn't happen and so the event couldn't be run across borders as planned, other countries pulled out. This in turn made the event that little bit harder as the competitors had to try race across some very loose and hard to navigate terrain. This actually hurt Stuart's attempt at the Dakar. When the sand gets pummeled into a soft powdery dust they call it Fesh Fesh, it's super fine and gets in places dust has no place being, and in Stuart's case that seemed to be the engine and at Day 8 it lost all compression and forced his retirement. If the event ran as originally planned, the ground would have been more compacted as it would only have been the frontrunners loosening things up instead of the whole field. His stories about how tough the race is, along with how the camping and eating process is makes you glad he was there and you weren't. Before this event Stuart was quoted as saying that he wouldn't do Dakar again, but by the end of the night he'd confirmed that he's definitely headed back to get that elusive medal and the fund raising started then and there with someone buying the Fox / Motul shirt he was wearing. Seems a bug has bitten.
From what was told, this event really is for the toughest of the tough, that goes for the people as well as the machinery. The costs involved not only to enter and race, but all preparations before and after are mind boggling, and on a privateer level are almost impossible to fathom. I tell you what though, looking at the images looping on the screens, it really is an awesome race through some amazing countries (well one this year) and does have you thinking that if you could, you probably would. The Original Motul class is mad though, you compete on your own, no crew to help service, fix or prep the bike. You set up and break down your own camp and a single box of your belongings is shipped to the next way point for you. With Stuart making it strong to the 8th day on his own, I have no doubt that if he was backed by a team he would have collected a medal.
It was a real eye-opener to get all the facts and figures from people who had actually been there and done that. There's costs behind the scenes that you won't see in any published facts and figures, struggles and hardships raising capital that could pay off a house just to get a medal. I've learned two things from this; if you want to enter Dakar, you need lots of money, and if you do enter Dakar, you need Red-Lined Motoring Adventure in your corner. It's also thanks to companies like Motul that we have these great events. On that note, thanks for the invite guys, that was a good and interesting evening. Oh, and next time I'm winning in the lucky draw!
*Pics without my logo were supplied.