Joined: Oct 2012
Usual story, the Dakar comes around and we all sit glued to it and promise ourselves that “one day we will do it”. By February the idea has been shelved and before you know it, the years have gone past and the only way you are going to “do Dakar” is by coach tour for the pensioner brigade.
Spur Francistown in 2006, I meet David for the second time in my life. Talk of races won and lost and races still to be ridden comes up. I mention my dream of taking African riders overseas and David mentions his dream of doing Dakar. Mutual friend, Ingo Waldschmidt from Namibia was going to head off to Lisbon to do the Dakar (that was cancelled), and both of us were wildly envious.
A few years later, David, Sarel Van Biljon, Charles Bender and I were sitting in the departure lounge at Nairobi International Airport. We had gone up there to take teams from SA and Zambia to race in the FIM African continental championship. Sarel turns to me and says “help me get to Dakar, you do all the administration and footwork, and in return, you can come with me.” David starts muttering about how he wants to do the Dakar, so we said, we would look into it, and then he must make a decision.
January 2012, we are all obsessed with how Darryl, Chris and the South African boys are doing. We have resorted to watching the shipping lanes on computer to see if the ship with their bikes would make it in time for them. Once the race starts, we all live on the computer and spend a small fortune in texting each other throughout the day as to how they are all doing. Sarel rings me and says “get moving for 2013, I want to do this race”. David is desperately keen, but needs to think things through, farm, crops, costs, and his long suffering wife and kids. Finally he has worked out that the farm should cope, costs will be a nightmare but with sponsorship it would be possible. Final hurdle is explaining it to Emma……, we all keep low profile as we don’t want to jeopardize things. Emma knows David’s obsession with racing and is very tolerant of the local events, but Dakar is a whole new ball game. As someone said, “the riding is actually the easier part, it is the 12 month build up of administration, fund raising and list after list of items needed/not needed etc that is the tough part”.
6th January at some absurd hour of the morning I get the “screw it, let’s do it” phone call from David and the ball started rolling. First of all was to prepare a sponsorship package and CV for David. This version went back and forth for a while with us all adding and subtracting bits and pieces until we were satisfied with the final version. (NB this is all happening via paraffin internet connection at David’s farm, load shedding in Zambia and Botswana, Charles only seems to get things on his cell phone, and if all our systems were working, the file was too big to email through. It was a nightmare, but David thank goodness has some good mates who all helped get the power point presentation set out for potential sponsors. You have to remember David is a “farmer boy” and unless it has a Massey Ferguson engine, he has no clue as to how to drive it!!! He is also the world’s largest stress bunny, and has heart failure over any minute detail.
One month after the momentous decision to do Dakar, we all meet up in Namibia with Ingo Waldschmidt. Ingo arrived bearing at least 4 massive lever arch files with paperwork and documents from his previous 3 Dakar’s. He did or rather did not do the Lisbon Dakar rally, but competed twice in South America on the big KTM 690 and finished. Thoughts turned to how we were going to actually do this, do we go as complete privateers, or try and hook up with a team similar to Darryl in 2012, or create our own team. David was fluffing about route book and navigation, Charles was more concerned with the assistance vehicle, and I was having a melt down over the administration. Have visions of arriving there to find that I have not filled/completed/signed on some form. Medical, actual bike licence for driving on public roads, FIM licence, will our application be accepted by ASO etc? Whilst the men were banging on about engines and bikes I was frantically searching “preparators” for Dakar.
The decision to use a KTM bike was a no brainer. They have proved themselves in these marathon rally events, and the fact that there is spares support from the factory (at a cost).But you cannot spend hundreds of thousands to get to the event and be stymied by the lack of a $2.00 not being with you. So knowing the back up from KTM, the boys all jumped at the opportunity to ride the KTM rally raid 450. Meanwhile, David bought a KTM 690 in Namibia to use as a practice bike. He flew back to Namibia later and rode the bike back to Zambia, as a test session!! The orders for the bikes were in, now we just had to get accepted by ASO. Entries opened in mid May, by then the application was sent via DHL, and by email and the entry fee paid. Now we just pray that they are accepted. Ingo is pretty much in, as a previous competitor who has finished, his entry is likely to be accepted. David however is an unknown, and despite a good CV, the stringent requirements and suitability of a competitor will always be called into question. From a safety issue, they cannot have money guys with no experience, neither can they have good riders but who may not come up with the money etc. Also I would imagine they have to have a ratio of who will/can finish to keep the legend alive.
On the sponsorship side, Zambia has really rallied (pardon the pun) around David. One basically needs close to US$100,000 to do this, including bike, entry fee, spares, air fare etc. The little farming community and town of Mazabuka have pulled out all stops to support David. The Zambian motorsport federation are backing this all the way, the mx fraternity have also helped out, the Honda dealership is supporting the KTM rider, the Debonnairs pizza chain have created a “triple Decker’ pizza and proceeds from the sale of this will go towards the sponsorship. The agricultural sector has really done their utmost as have the fuel companies. Individual personal sponsorships have been amazing from family friends who have known David since he was a child. We are not quite there yet, but have managed to raise 75% of what is needed. So huge thanks to all involved. Another special mention must go to Norman Barrett for setting up and administering the Face Book page, as well as dealing with sponsors on Davids behalf and chasing up the finances.
Racing and training is obviously the other factor in getting David to Dakar, fit and happy!! The riding ability and fitness is not too much of an issue, but navigation is going to be. We are all stressed out about that and that bloody road book. However, salvation in the form of Ingo and his upcoming navigation schools will hopefully alleviate this problem. We had the absolute pleasure of Giovanni Sala come to Zambia to do enduro training for the FIM Africa riders, and he spent hours going through lists of what we do and don’t need. The input from this podium finisher in the African Dakar, has been invaluable, and bizarre shopping lists are forming on my computer. Can see myself explaining washing powder to the Peruvian authorities on arrival as well as scotch tape and highlighters and the need for 12 pairs of earplugs!
David has been racing in Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe and spends all day going around the farm on his motorbike. The 1000 km desert race is around the corner which will give him an idea of riding 500 kms a day. So saddle time will be covered, not sure how one trains for mental fitness though? Handling little things for the riders each day will hopefully alleviate stress, and allow them to concentrate on the riding.