Q&A with Dakar veteran

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65-year-old Robbie Allan will be the oldest man to ever race in the gruelling Dakar Rally.

Allan is riding for Team Honda Europe with veteran Dakar racer, Mick Extance. The 5,000 mile Rally begins on January 6, 2007.

MCN caught up with the man who has raced a motorbike every year for the last 50 years to ask him if he’s finally taken leave of his senses.

MCN: Racing the Dakar at your age, are you mad?

RA: Well lots of people have tried to talk me out of racing. I’m in a no win position really; if I don’t finish then people will say: “The silly old bastard” and if I do finish then people will say: “God, the Dakar must be easier than I thought.”

I’ve had the medical examination and the doctors told me that they haven’t seen a 40-year-old as fit as I am; let alone a 60-year-old.

MCN: What’s the secret to keeping fit at your age?

RA: I’ve never smoked, I hardly ever drink, I watch what I eat and everyday I cycle 15 miles. It’s nothing hardcore it’s just about being sensible. I’ve seen the youngsters like Niall MacKenzie come up through the ranks and then retire at the age of 40 and I think, why give up you wimps, you’re still fast. I get young kids come up to me when I’m racing and they say: “Robbie, you used to race my granddad… he couldn’t even swing his leg over a bike.”

MCN: Is your age an advantage in any way?

RA: My experience will be a big help. You don’t race for 50 years without learning a thing or two on the way. I’ve raced in grass track, speedway, trials, enduros, motocross and have recorded a 106mph lap on a CBR600 at the Isle of Man; Carl Fogarty was 7mph faster than me that year.

I’ve just got back from Morocco where I’ve been training in the sand dunes and things have gone well. I’ve got the skills to compete it’s just the sheer mental concentration required. Riding flat out at about 90mph on a road that you know could just disappear into a huge hole at any second requires such focus.

MCN: Are you scared of hurting yourself?

RA: I’ve never really thought about. The only thing that scares me is not finishing; I just have to finish the race no matter what.

I’ve crashed at the Isle of Man at 100mph; I slid down the road for 200 yards before crashing through a fence. However, I’ve never been badly hurt. I guess I’ve just been lucky. My worst injury was recently as I was training for the Dakar – I came off my mountain bike and broke my wrist; typical eh?
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MCN: (To Robbie’s long suffering wife Margaret) Are you scared of Robbie hurting himself?

MA: I’ve been watching him race for 40 years so by now I’m used to it, he’s old enough to know the risks. I never liked the Isle of Man, we’ve just lost too many friends over there. To be honest I was much more worried watching my own son race because he’s flesh and blood and Robbie’s just some bloke I met.

MCN: So you wouldn’t stop Robbie racing?

MA: Actually I phoned up the Dakar organisers and asked if there was an age limit and they said: “Yes… you’ve got to be 18.” There’s no upper age limit so I can’t stop him, not that I’d want to anyway.

MCN: What do you think of Charley Boorman’s Dakar attempt?

RA: He’s just a celebrity who didn’t realise how hard it would be. He was woefully under prepared. I’d have had more respect for him if he didn’t have such a big gang backing him… and he still didn’t finish.

My real inspiration is Burt Munro from the film ‘World’s Fastest Indian’. I really see myself in him – it’s all about believing in yourself and committing yourself to a task.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff