Tuesday, November 21, 2006


In the last few days we have been watching Charley Boorman (of Long Way Round fame) in his new adventure show, Race to Dakar. It chronicles his assault on the 2006 Dakar Rally, from prep to race, and focuses not just on his experience but on those of his team-mates and support crew.

I've been watching the Dakar for 4 years now, since Speed Channel first showed it on a daily basis. It's compelling on many levels. Firstly there's the race itself: basically, who's winning. Secondly, the environment is spectacular. You can't fail to be moved by the dramatic North African ergs, seas of Sahara dunes and dense sub-Saharan bush. Thirdly, the endurance required of all people involved in the rally is amazing. Watching humans who are being pushed to their limits is always intriguing. Finally, there's the massive scale of the operation. Moving that much stuff in those kind of conditions is a huge feat, one that puts a Pink Floyd tour to shame.

TV coverage tends to not focus so much on the last of these factors, so it was extremely revealing to watch the footage that Charley and his crew captured. My partner and I met when we were crew managers on what used to be called the California AIDS Ride, another event that is an example of logistical achievement. The premise of that event was a bicycle ride that had 3000 riders and 600 support crew travelling from San Francisco to LA in seven days. What we saw the Race to Dakar guys experience brought back some vivid memories: very early mornings, camping in the cold, very average food, lack of sleep, lack of hygiene, long hours, dust, sunburn, you name it... In an environment like that, even the smallest thing is difficult. For us it could have been something like running out of clean ice at a pitstop area. For them, a cracked lower wishbone on a support vehicle 250kms from the bivouac disrupted their entire plan.

When I watch Dakar 2007, I'll be watching through new eyes. In the past I longed to work on the event, and even went so far as to apply (and be soundly rejected by organizers ASO). I've changed my mind. There's other ways to get your logistical jollies - stage rallies and desert racing comes to mind. I've always fancied a trip to Baja. I'm getting on a dirtbike for the first time next month, so that should indicate whether I'll end up at Baja as a rider, crew member or volunteer...


Anonymous said...

I am also really interested in attending the 2007 rally. How does one go about applying to volunteer or be involved in some capacity (other than as a competitor)? Thanks.

Nicebloke said...

You need to get in touch with the organizers, ASO Sport. Try here:

Or here:

You're almost certainly too late to be involved for 2007. I talked to them 8 months ahead of time.

The other option is to find a team looking for crew. If a team is full ask if you can put your name down as a last-minute reserve in case one of their crew gets sick.