Meet your new Dakar heroes
30 December 2012 06:30
British riders have a long tradition of competing in the world famous Dakar Rally and 2013 is no exception – from factory-supported riders through to top privateers and individuals fulfilling their life long dream of racing the Dakar.
These seven Brits are all ready to go when it starts on January 5 2013.
The Dakar isn’t just about superstar riders and full factory teams. Nearly 200 competitors from all walks of life come together in the name of adventure. And seven Brits have signed up to start the race on January 5 in Peru.
Name: James West
Team: Crocoaventures Factory Sherco Rally Raid
Occupation: Runs desert riding company
West is an accomplished desert and extreme enduro rider based in the United Arab Emirates. With an impressive motocross CV, he burst on to the scene in 2008 with a strong performance in the UAE Desert Challenge.
It resulted in him being signed by the official KTM UAE Racing team. He went on to win the 250cc class of the California Baja 1000 and on the strength of his performances was given the coveted opportunity to join the factory KTM Dakar team as support rider for multiple race winner Cyril Despres. But due to circumstances out of his control he never got to the start line.
“I’ve been set to go to Dakar twice now but it hasn’t happened due to injuries. In 2010 I was set to go with KTM and Cyril Despres, but three weeks before the race I blew my knee out. You have to be 100% fit to go to Dakar and I wasn’t.
"Because it was so close to the start of the race the team had done the big team photo with all the kit and they had to Photoshop Ruben Faria’s face over my photo!
"In 2012 I was due to ride with Pal Ullevalsetter [2nd in 2010], but I got injured again. I still went to Dakar as the team manager for Ullevalsetter so I was able to see first hand what happens.”
Name: Simon Pavey
Team: Delta Kunstaffe
Occupation: Runs an off road skills school
Originally from Australia Pavey has been based in the UK for years and is a veteran of the Dakar. The 2013 race will be his ninth Dakar after first completing the event in 1999.
During this time he’s finished an incredible six Dakars and is not only a great rider but a highly experienced and level headed racer.
Pavey was set to race the Dakar with his son Llewellyn and be the first father and son team to race on bikes, but Llewellyn’s entry was surprisingly rejected with the organisers citing a lack of experience. Despite the major set-back, Pavey heads to Dakar with a new bike and his own team for the first time in his Dakar career.
“Every other year I’ve been to the Dakar I’ve gone there with a bike that you feel is about two years behind everybody else. Normally you look at the factory bikes and the top privateers and you’re a long way behind, but now I’m looking at my Husqvarna and thinking that we’ve done a really good job.
"Apart from the proper factory bikes I think ours is the next best thing. Instead of having a bike to ride I’ve actually got something that I can race.
“For any of the entrants, just getting to the start of Dakar is a big project for each one of us. It’s very hard, but I love this race and the craziness that goes with it. There’s still that kind of Mad Max feeling to it. It’s so long and so hazardous; it’s what keeps bringing people back.”
Name: Stan Watt
Team: Front Row GB Crescent KTM
Occupation: Company Director
Watt needs no introduction having shown impressive pace in last year’s Dakar, finishing 34th overall. The Irishman is an expert in navigation and has proved himself to be a fast, strong rider with a strong team and the determination to secure an even better result in the 2013 Dakar.
He said: “To prepare I’ve been doing the British Enduro Championship and also competed in the Sardinia and Morocco Rallies. My aim is to try and ride once a week and I’ve been using a KTM500 Enduro bike, but we fit it with the big fuel tanks so that I can get used to riding with a heavier bike.
"In the weeks leading up to the race
I change my training regime and start to introduce more strength rather than cardio vascular. The focus is staying strong to try and be ready for the start of the race.”
He’s also been able to make improvements to his factory KTM as a result of his experience with the bike in the 2012 race.
“The areas we’ve been working on are suspension and engine. It’s vital to have good suspension as there are stages when you’ve got to get up a wide river bed full of rocks and you’re going to be in there for two or three hours. It also needs to work on the fast stuff and not beat you up physically.
"We’ve got the cone valves factory WP suspension, which is as close to the factory team stuff as you can get. With the engine we’ve worked on useable power, lots of torque, which should hopefully make it easier to ride.”
Bounds is a renowned British Enduro and Rally Raid competitor. In 2013 he’ll be entering the Dakar for the fourth time having finished 54th in 2009 on his first attempt.
In 2010 he showed what he was capable of, finishing 15th on stage two before suffering an engine failure on stage 13 of the race. In 2011 his luck ran out again and he suffered a high speed crash badly dislocating his shoulder.
Despite his vast experience and riding ability it won’t be easy, especially as Bounds is racing in the Malle Moto class of the race which means he has no support crew and will have to do all of his own maintenance without assistance during the 15-day event.
“My preparation for this year’s race is going well, which is promising after the big set back that has been my shoulder from the injury two years ago. I did it in the Dakar in 2011 and there was a lot of nerve damage. I’ve done a lot of training and a lot of physio to get it back to where it needs to be and it’s really coming together.
“I’ve got a KTM factory Rally RR and it’s just made for the job. You still have to set it all up, but it’s been built by the factory legends. They’ve tested and developed the bike for the last three years and privateers like me can buy one.”
Name: Paul Jay
Team: Paul Jay Racing Honda CRF450X
Occupation: Data Centre Manager
Jay’s first thoughts of actually competing in the Dakar came over 30 years ago when, at the age of 12, the race was thrown onto the map in the UK when Mark Thatcher (son of former Prime minister Margaret Thatcher) famously got himself lost for six days in the Sahara desert.
It was the moment he knew he had to enter the race one day and in 2013 he’ll be on the start line lining up with the best Rally Raid rider in the world in his first ever Dakar.
“I’ve wanted to do it ever since I saw Mark Thatcher get lost. I thought that was awesome and from that day it was ‘right that’s the event for me’. It’s one of the last true and real adventures in the world.”
His path to the Dakar has not been an easy one. Having paid for everything himself he’s had the bonus in recent weeks of gaining a support vehicle with the experienced Desert Rose Racing driver Charles Blois (74 years old) supplying the vehicle, working with mechanic Mike Rowley who is also paying his own way to be part of the adventure.
“It’s all self-financed. I’ve mortgaged the house, the overdraft has taken a kicking and the credit cards are maxed out. I got to a point where I’d lost some family members and it makes you stop and reflect.
"You ask the question how long am I here for and I don’t want to live with regrets. It was only six weeks ago that the final decision was made. I got to a point where I bit the bullet and said: ‘I’ll do it whatever it costs and sort it out when I get back’.”
Name: Tim Forman
Team: Front Row GB KTM 450 Rally RR
Occupation: Project manager for a building company
Forman didn’t even start riding off-road until he was 21 but was clearly a natural and progressed through the ranks and into the British Enduro Championship. He’s been selected for the Welsh team for the ISDE (International Six Days Enduro) six times.
He’s gone on to compete in the European Championship and the British round of the World Championship before turning his attention to the Dakar.
Unlike most privateers whose participation comes at the end of a two or three year project to race the Dakar, Forman’s remarkable journey has taken just a year.
“I’ve been riding in Stan Watt’s Front Row GB team when they gave me the opportunity to do the Dakar.
"It’s been a big part of my dream wish list to do the race and I’d like to thank the team. I’ve always wanted to compete but the cost has always been too prohibitive.
“My first Rally Raid was Sardinia but I only completed one full day when I crashed and took the top off my finger. I had to fly home for surgery so that was that. I then went to Morocco, which is one of the closest races to the Dakar.
"You cover big miles and you’re doing long days and it was also my first time really doing the navigation. I struggled to start with but by the end I had days when I was in the top 20.”
Poskitt is an accomplished racer with 23 years’ experience in trials, motocross, enduro, supermoto, road racing and long distance adventure riding. In 2013 he will fulfil a long- time ambition to race the Dakar after securing the necessary budget.
“I wanted to do something that rolled all the disciplines I’ve raced into one. In 2007 I did the Baja 1000 and loved it and I knew then that the next step for me would be the Dakar. But because of the money you need it was never an option.
"I went back to Enduro riding before doing the UK Big Bike Rally Challenge in 2011 where I finished second overall behind Craig Bounds and that got me looking at the Dakar again.
“I knew that if I wanted to do it I just had to commit to it. I bought Stan Watt’s 2012 Dakar bike and rode it all year. I did my first navigation event in Sardinia and finished 42nd out of 150. That was a key result for me because I knew then that I could do the Dakar.”
Unfortunately his excellent preparation was brought to an abrupt halt when he suffered a spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in a crash on the road.
“I was off my bike for 11 weeks. I had to prepare my bike with my foot in a cast and I’ve been cycling 30 miles a day with the cast on. It was my aim to be on a bike every weekend but I finally got out on an Enduro bike last week and it felt good.”