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Rally Rampage: Dakar Legends Discuss the Challenges of the Dakar Rally

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The Dakar Rally is surely the toughest challenge of man and motorcycle ever conceived; two weeks of unending effort requiring not only a motorcycle that will stand up to intense punishment but also a fit body and mind that can withstand the same.

However, many riders will tell you that the event itself is only half the battle; simply getting there can pose just as many seemingly unassailable problems and takes just as much effort over weeks and months, if not years.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

A recent event organised by Rally Rampage at ADA, near Hartbeespoort, one of South Africa’s premier off-road training facilities, brought together Dakar participants Charan Moore, Bradley Cox and Stuart Gregory, to talk about the challenges faced prior to competing in a Dakar Rally event.

The talk was preceded by a four-hour adventure ride, open to all comers, both in and around the ADA grounds and out on the open road. More than 50 bikes and riders turned up to do battle not only against the terrain but also the 31-degree heat. After that, Moore, Cox and Gregory took to the stage, while the adventure riders listened as their stories unfolded. Nothing, it seems, is easy on the road to the Dakar!

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Stuart Gregory kicked things off. 2024 was his fifth Dakar and, as has to be the case for so many entrants, the challenge to begin with was to qualify for inclusion. That, it seems, was the easy part: raising R500,000 was a lot more daunting. That, and making sure his bike, which has already done two Dakars, would be strong enough to complete a third.

But, within Stuart’s story was a familiar theme of private entrants into the rally. It seems Stuart has a love/hate relationship with the event, one which has him questioning why he is doing it again when the last one brought him to his knees. You could see the pain written on his face as he talked about it. But still, he goes back, regardless of the huge effort and logistical nightmares.

Image source: Motul

Not for him a factory-backed service area, with all the spares necessary and a team of mechanics to carry out any work. Stuart had an allowance of two, 23kg bags on his flight to Saudi Arabia and that had to hold all his personal gear as well as any spares he thought he might need. Any work that needed doing to the bike, he had to do himself, among other important things at the end of a day’s riding.

In the event that he needed a spare part that wasn’t in his baggage, there was a parts truck that followed the route and was there at each night’s stop, full of everything an entrant might need in order to continue. The thing is, none of it was free, so that had to be factored into the financial calculations. When you’ve got that far, it must be galling to have to stop through no fault of your own.

Image source: BAS world KTM racing team

Next up was Bradley Cox. The name of Cox is well known in motorcycle sport, not only in South Africa, but at the Dakar. Bradley’s father Alfie Cox needs no introduction, although Bradley sometimes wishes he didn’t have the pressure of living up to his father’s achievements, no matter how much of a help the name might be at times.

Even though Bradley grew up in a Dakar household, his goal was never to take part in the desert race. His focus was to compete in local and overseas enduro, off-road and MX championships. Unfortunately, lockdown hit, and his dreams were put on hold. This started him on the road to building an interest in the Dakar, which needed a whole new set of skills: learning how to read a road-book being a top priority. Before he knew it, Bradley competed in the 2021 Rallye du Maroc, finishing 3rd in the Rally2 class. He then went on to win a few rallies in Asia. The Dakar was on his horizon.

Image source: BAS world KTM racing team

Although racing for the BAS World KTM Racing team, Bradley had a tough time raising funds to take part in his second Dakar in 2023. This is where Dakar spirit comes into play. Nasser Al-Attiyah, five-time winner of the Dakar (on four wheels) and a friend to the Cox family donated his race suit so that Bradley could auction it off to help get closer to his R2 million budget. Toyota saw this and questioned why he was auctioning the suit; after Bradley explained, Gazoo Racing jumped on as a sponsor and this year was his main sponsor heading into the Dakar (even after a disastrous DNF in last year’s Dakar Rally in stage 1).

Bradley was literally just a few months away from the Dakar and a few hundred thousand Rand down; without the Toyota Gazoo Racing lifeline, all the hard work would have been for nothing. The Dakar is a demanding race, and if just being accepted into the Dakar is hard enough; raising the funds is just as demanding, if not more so. You’d think that once the race starts, you can leave all that behind, but you can’t; the financial worry never stops, even when you’re wrestling your 450cc bike at 160km/h through the desert: all the way you have to be thinking, ‘I’ve got to go fast, but too fast and I’ll break the bike or myself and then it’s all for nothing!’

Image source: BAS world KTM racing team

Charan Moore’s story is a little different to Gregory’s or Cox’s. Just like them, on his first Dakar, he had a mountain of funds to raise, but only 6 months to get it all done. Charan signed up for the Rally, not really knowing if he would qualify to race. Twenty minutes later he gets a call from Darryl Curtis who coordinates the singing-up procedure saying, “You don’t need to take part in any qualifying events as your racing background already qualifies you.” Before Charan knew it he was just a month or so away from the Dakar on his machine, with precious little seat time under his belt and a lot of organisation to take care of.

Image source: USN SA

Charan took part in his second Dakar Original by Motul class in 2023 (formerly the Malle Moto Class) and represented SA with flying colours as he crossed the line in first place. Riding a bike is tough; raising funds on your own is hectic; servicing your own bike on your own after each stage (including an engine change), planning your road book and then still riding at a pace sufficient to take the lead and win the Original by Motul class is an amazing achievement.

Image source: USN SA

Three different approaches to the Dakar but three similar stories of hard work, perseverance, stamina, skill and, let’s face it, a fair dose of luck. If you ever thought the Dakar was easy, maybe have a chat with any one of these three guys and let them put you straight!

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Staff Writer
Staff Writer
Compiled by the ZA Bikers team.