Brits ready for epic Dakar challenge

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The Dakar is more than a race. It’s an adventure.  For many, the dream is worth many sacrifices. For the 44 year old Chris Cork from Devon it was worth his house. The builder inherited the passion from his grandfather who was a speedway racer. He grew up watching the Dakar and his passion for rallying eventually took him to consider the summit of off road racing. After the unlucky debut last year, “Corky” is back with a goal in mind: finish the toughest rally in the world.

“Here we are for my second Dakar Rally. It was important to come back after I crashed last year and had to withdraw on day 4. I hit rocks that were beneath the sand. I went over the handle bars and injured my wrist, hand and vertebra. It took me several months to recover completely, but I had to come back because otherwise I would live miserable. My wife knows me well and I’m happy to have her full support. I’m excited and I won’t change my approach to the race. I will try to ride carefully, finishing in good time every day and look around a bit more before tackling a dune!  Regarding the route, the most technical parts will be harder for me, apparently there will be some big climbs and water crosses. My favourite part will be the second half when we will meet the dunes. This is where I like to be. I’m comfortable in the dunes and the view is wider.  When you have narrow paths, instead, you are kind of chased and you need to push.

This year I was very lucky because it was easier to find sponsors. They called me and the bank was very kind too! My story in fact became very popular. To compete the 2015 Dakar I had to sell my house because the economic commitment was huge. I crashed on Day 4, and once I recovered from the injuries I was on the podium of the Hellas rally in Greece. This year it was not necessary to sell my house. We still live in Devon, only in a smaller house!   Just to have an idea of the budget, considered that an amateur already has a good 450cc motorcycle, you need to calculate around 20,000 pounds for the assistance team, the same amount for the entry, and then 6,800 pounds to upgrade your bike with tank, fairing and  navigation system. This is the base, but then you need to consider the budget for the rallies that you have to do to get your entry accepted. Now there is a new system with the Merzouga Rally part of the Dakar Series. If you finish the Merzouga you will have your entry to the Dakar accepted. But in terms of preparation, one rally is not enough so you need to plan some rallies throughout the year to arrive fit and well prepared”.

Also Jamie Smith is at his second experience on the Dakar. He was at the start of the 2014 edition in Rosario, but his race ended painfully when he fractured his hip after a crash on day 2.

Mentally better prepared and part of the Nomade Racing team with Chris Cork as team mate, he dreams of once again seeing Rosario but this time for the finish podium. 

“The Dakar is another world. The scale is so big. You tell yourself: I shouldn’t be here! My 2014 Dakar was a brief experience. Going through a village I crashed and fractured my hip and ribs. I carried on for 150kms. It was physical agony. It’s still hazy in my mind. I was eventually stretchered off in a helicopter. I hadn’t realized I had fractured my hip. One of the satisfactions of the Dakar was when I was at the airport to return home and Ruben Faria (who had also injured) brought me a beer. It took me 8 months to recover. Even now, bruises show up from time to time. I did the Africa Eco Race last year but the Dakar is still in my system. My main issue is the speed. It’s something you can’t practice, it’s mental. For this second Dakar, I’m mentally better prepared, more laid back. The goal is to finish. A friend told me: don’t worry about overtaking others, they will eventually quit… The Dakar is like going to Vegas and putting all your money on the black! You need to be completely focused.”

Maria Guidotti

By Maria Guidotti