Dakar Rally 08: Meet the British competitors for 2008

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The 2008 Dakar Rally is just days away so motorcyclenews.com is taking a look ahead before the race sets off from Lisbon in Portugal on January 5.

In part two of our previews, we take a look at the British riders competing in the 2008 Dakar Rally.

Mick Extance

Richard Kaye

Stanley Watt

Jonathan Stamper

Duncan Tweedy

Philip Noone

Jonathan Walter

Gary Ennis

Simon Collis 

Calum McKenzie

John Whiteford

Iain Shankie

Ewan Buchan

Neil Buchan


Mick Extance
Hometown:  Spondon, Derbyshire
DOB: 07/05/1963
Honda Europe/Dakarsport
Riding: Honda CRF450X

Concrete layer Mick Extance is Great Britain’s most experienced Dakar racer with four finishes (in a row) out of six races, his best finish being 26th in 2006.

For 2008 Mick Extance is again racing a modified Honda CRF450X but with a bigger oil capacity to keep the engine cool, after his bike seized last year.

He said: “When I started this crazy Dakar race I always wanted a top 20 finish and that’s still my goal, along with getting another finishers medal for the sideboard. I lost my way last year and the Dakar bit back as it does.

“So this year, with more experience under our belts, I’ve done a lot more of my own package and I’m making a point of having some fun again. It’s easy to lose your way and take it too seriously.

“It’s great that some many Brits and I like to think that people have found it accessible because they’ve seen what I’ve achieved.

Every year the Dakar comes at a huge expense to Mick and his family, he has to raise at least £30,000, has re-mortgage his house twice, works six days a week and his wife and children have gone without a holiday for the previous six years.

Extance said: “I’ve been working every day for the last year and I would’ve thought that being the most successful British man in the Dakar sponsorship would’ve become easier but it’s getting harder all the time.

“My wife sits on the computer all day sending emails trying to get more sponsorship. And that’s when it gets even harder because once someone has committed money I have to make sure I can raise the rest the rest of the funds.

“It’s becoming such a strain now after six years of hard graft, I enjoy riding and once I’m on the start line, the pressure is off and I can get on with riding the bike.

“I’ll never say it’s going to be my last race but I am tired and drained from the pressure of having to coming up with the cash each year to make it happen.

“If you asked me if this was my last race on January 20 my opinion will be different. If I get a top 20 finish this year then maybe I can walk away from this crazy race.“

Richard Kaye
Hometown:  Harrogate, Yorkshire (now residing in Luca, Tuscany)
DOB: 30/09/1967
Riding: JNCO KTM 660

Richard Kaye is more famous for car racing and has won several major single make championships as well as finishing second in the British Touring Car Championship. But for the Dakar has turned his attention to bikes.

Richard Kaye said: “It started out that four of us were going to compete but one by one over the year they’ve all fallen by the wayside so it’s just me now.

“It’s all Tim Harvey’s fault (former British Touring Car Championship driver) he got me into bike riding after I stopped racing cars.

“Since moving to Italy I’ve done greenlaning almost everyday and all of a sudden something clicked and I wanted to take it up a notch.”

“I want to finish but I have to be careful, I don’t want to just ride the bike there’s a fine line between going too slow and feeling every bump and going to fast and hurting yourself.”

Richard Kaye has prepared the bike himself and has just put a new engine in ready for the big race.

Team: Front Row GB
Stanley Watt (ENG)
Hometown:  Poole, Dorset
DOB: 29/07/1971
Riding: KTM690

Stanley Watt has been preparing for the 2008 Dakar Rally by training with Jonathan Stamper.

Stanley Watt said: “I’ve done a few desert races already including the Rally Maroc World Cup, which I was leading until a crash.

“I’ve also completed a full season of enduros so I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I just see it as another race, but something I had to do.”

Jonathan Stamper (ENG)
Hometown:  Ashford, Kent
DOB: 29/10/1965
Riding: KTM690

Jonathan Stamper has been training with Stanley Watt and is as ready as he’ll ever be.

Jonathan Stamper said: ”I just want to get there and then get to the finish line.

“The only problem at the moment is he last minute admin problems, but we’re both well prepared.”

Team: Desert Rose
Duncan Tweedy (ENG)
Hometown:  York
DOB: 04/04/1963
Riding: KTM525

Duncan Tweedy is a co-director of an interior design company and is another rider that used to race cars. As part of the Desert Rose team his bike will have been put together by Patsy Quick who has based the bike on her one machine that completed the race in 2006.

Duncan is another rider who will be making his debut at the Dakar and feels he could have done more to prepare himself.

Duncan Tweedy said: “I would like to have given up work six months ago, but I’ve got to pay for this trip. I’ve been doing a load of enduros but the closer it’s got the less I can do.

“I don’t want to be riding and have someone take me out and ruin my chances. So there’s a fine line between staying bike fit and staying well clear of bikes.
“I’ve always wanted to do it when I was 18-19 I was doing enduros but it was out of reach and in January I read an article on Patsy Quick and thought I’d better do that before I get any older.”

Philip Noone (IRE)
Hometown:  Dublin
DOB: 04/01/1968
Riding: KTM525

As part of his training Philip Noone and fellow countryman Gary Ennis have competed in the International Six Day Enduro, and finished it.

As part of the Desert Rose preparation all members we’re invited out to Morocco for some sand training.

Philip Noone said: “I went to some of the biggest dunes to see how I’d cope and so nothing would phase me. The bike has done nearly 3000 miles so it’s run in and ready to go.

“I’m still training three of four days a week and spending a little bit of time on the bike.

“The nerves have gone and I’ve been planning it since 2005 so I just want to get there now. My plan to win is to attack from the back.

Jonathan Walter (ENG)
Hometown:  Bristol
DOB: 18/01/1964
Riding: KTM525

Jonathan Walter lives in Spain and has been racing bikes since he was 17.

Jonathan Walter said: “I always wanted to compete in the Dakar but time and cost put me off until this year when I thought it’s now or never.

“I’m not too worried as I’ve spent a lot of time practising in the dunes in Morocco, so I know what’s coming the difficulty will be in the length of the stages.”

Gary Ennis (IRE)
Hometown:  Dublin
DOB: 04/01/1965
Riding: KTM660R

Along with Philip Noone, Gary Ennis has completed in several International Six Day Enduros and has competed in the Irish Enduro Championship and apart from Mick Extance is the only other British Rider to previously have a go at the Dakar.

Simon Collis (ENG)
Hometown:  London
DOB: 23.02.1956 
Riding: KTM525

Simon Collis is the final member of the Desert Rose team and has worked for the Foreign Office for many years.

“It’s been a dream for most of my life. When I was 16 a friend made a Saharan desert crossing and the adventure caught my imagination.

“A couple of years later the first Dakar rally started, and I knew I wanted to ride it one day.

“At that time I had a road bike but no off-road experience at all. Years later, my children grown up, I had the chance to start riding on sand while living in the Emirates.

“I entered some desert races. All the time I knew that the ultimate challenge was Dakar.”

Team:  Scotland To Dakar (part of the Desert Rose Team)
Calum McKenzie (SCO)
Home Town: Glasgow, Scotland
DOB: 24/07/1961
Riding: KTM525

The thing that made Calum want to set out on a Dakar challenge after he saw Robbie Allen,  the oldest competitor in the Dakar give it a go he thought he could do it.

Calum McKenzie said: “I’ve wanted to do it for years and watched it on TV and always thought that it was the ultimate challenge.

“And last year Iain (Shankie) and John (Whiteford) were over at mine for a New Year’s Eve party and we saw that Robbie Allen was doing it and all agreed that we’ll do it.”

“Now the hardest part is making sure all the little things are in place. Patsy has sorted the bikes for us so we’ve got to get the rest ready.”

John Whiteford (SCO)
Home Town: Glasgow, Scotland
DOB: 22/12/1960
Riding: KTM525

The Dakar can cost well over £50,000 which is why for cattle farmer John Whiteford this is his one and only chance.

John Witeford “It’s costing three times the amount I thought it would. I now have to juggle money and my age.

“You have to buy everything, at first I was thinking I don’t need certain things like a neck brace but if that was to stop me from finishing then I’d be devastated, finishing is everything.”

Iain Shankie (SCO)
Home Town: Glasgow, Scotland
DOB: 08/05/1961
Riding: KTM525

For Iain Shankie the plan was to take two-to-three years to get fully prepared but when he got an ultimatum from childhood friends Calum McKenzie and John Whiteford he had to knock that on the head.

Iain Shankie said:  “They said to me ‘we’re doing it this year so are you in or out?’ I always wanted to do it so I thought why not?

“The only thing I’m worried about is if a car overtakes spays up sand and I won’t be able to see anything.

“Another thing was training with Patsy in Morocco I really got the hang of the bike, how it works, it’s strong points and then we got introduced to the road map, which knocked me back.

“Not only do you have to workout the symbols but the road book’s also in French.”

Ewan Buchan (SCO)
Home Town: Glasgow, Scotland
DOB: 20/05/1967
Riding: KTM525

“Last year I sponsored Robbie Allen and as I was seeing him off from Lisbon I thought I could do with this. When he got back we had a chat about me him and our brothers all doing it together.

“So me and Neil said yes, we entered and got in, unfortunately Robbie didn’t.

“When the letter came through saying we’d been accepted we thought oh shit now its real. I’m passed the nervous stage and just want to get going.

“It’ll be good to be one of the first Scotsmen to ever finish the Dakar.”

Neil Buchan (SCO)
Home Town: Glasgow, Scotland
DOB: 29/09/1962
Riding: KTM525

Neil is Ewan’s older brother and the will be each others rocks throughout the race.

“I’ve always been into bikes and the Dakar started when I was about 15 so I’ve always wanted to do it. Not so much for the race but more for the camaraderie of helping each other out and everyone getting to the finish line.

“The biggest surprise is the difference between the bike when I first rode it to now. It’s so heavy I might as well be riding a Harley Davidson through the sand.

“And it’s not like Knockhill where you keep going round and round we might get lost so the nerves are there but we’ve got a good team around us.”

Dave Rawlings

By Dave Rawlings