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Old 02-13-2015, 07:28 AM   #1
carryoncorky OP
Joined: Mar 2009
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The 40 year old virgin - A 3 year journey from rally newbie to competitor in Dakar

The 40 year old virgin - Corky's 3 year journey from rally newbie to competitor in the Dakar

How did that happen?

2011: Well, as frequently happens in life it was all by chance. I'd been in contact with John Mitchinson at Rally-Raid Products enthusing about the adventure kit he was building for the KTM 690. Some phone calls later and we both ended up taking part in the Dawn To Dusk 10 hour big bike night race on our RRP equipped 690's - the 10hr race had been introduced to the D2D proceedings by Burt & Molly as a non points scoring round of the ATRC calendar. On the wrong side of 40 I questioned my sanity taking on this challenge for my 1st race, but was pleasantly surprised to be sitting in 3rd place behind the Desert Rose riders for the majority of the event.

Unfortunately the smile was soon wiped off my face when my lack of fitness let me down 8 hours in and I ended up 5th. Back in the D2D paddock John put forward the notion of taking part in a desert rally. Upon my arrival home I did some research, watched the videos, and dutifully filled in the entry form for the Tuareg Rally. With immediate effect my lifestyle changed and the training started. It wasn't easy as most of my early adult years had been spent playing in various punk bands and the excesses of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle hadn't done me any favours, but I like a challenge!

2012: After 6 months of training it was time for my 1st rally. It's fair to say the Tuareg was not a great great success for me - I was like a fish out of water. There was so much to learn and take in. On the 1st special on the 1st day I had an incoming Donkey on the track and decided it was kinder/safer to avoid the hazard rather then hit it! The problem was that we were on a climb and once I'd left the track we (me and the bike) fell quite a way down! Things just got worse with the clutch disintegrating, got horribly lost, and then the fuel pump went! The positives were that my fitness levels had improved 10 fold, and during the 2nd half of the event everything started to fall into place and I was putting in respectable times.

Not to be beaten at the 1st hurdle, training continued and later in the year the Transanatolia Rally in Turkey was entered. Lessons learned (readers will find I constantly learn the hard way) I placed 13th and managed 7th in one of the specials. I had done well but no one felt like celebrating. The race was unfortunately tarnished by the death of Wouter and Kemal who collided on a special. It was a harsh reality check but over the years I've learnt that this comes wit the territory and have slowly hardened to it.

2013: I did some rounds of the UK ATRC, participated in my 1st Welsh 2 Day Enduro, took part in the Dawn To dusk 24hr marathon, got some running events under my belt, and in May took part in the Hellas Rally. I was generally getting a lot more comfortable with my riding, navigation, and fitness. I'd been putting in the hours on all disciplines and I was slowly reaping the awards of my labours.

Now then, bikes have always been a passion of mine (my grandad raced on 2 wheels so I guess it's in the blood), and I'd marvelled over the Dakar Rally and its riders, but not for one moment dreamt I'd ever be able to take part. But the more events I finished, and the more previous competitors I got to meet, and the better I got, and the more I learnt, and the more I thought I could compete in the worlds toughest rally race. There was just a few problems. Riding sand was still problem, my navigation skills weren't honed in, and money was needed. It was time to get serious - the house had to go on the market! I flew out to Dubai to start some dune training with James and Sam, and registered for the Merzouga Rally. Money was now becoming a real problem but I had learnt so much and was determined to continue. The house had been on the market for 8 months and no one was buying - it was a worrying time. Then out of the blue we had a buyer, but the downside was the exchange was too take place on the same dates as the paid for Merzouga Rally - Gutted! I now though had the funds to really push on and Edo graciously let me keep my entry fee for the next years edition of the rally.

2014: This was the year to really get my CV looking good for my Dakar registration. The year contained more training in Dubai, followed by the Tuareg, Libya Rally, Hellas, Sardegna (a round of the FIM world championships), and the Merzouga later in the year. Things started well finishing 20th and 17th in my 1st two events. These events weren't without there incidents though - my friend Keith broke his wrist in the Tuareg and I collapsed from dehydration in the Libya (yet another lesson learnt!)

The Hellas was completed next and then later on, and when it mattered the most things started to go badly wrong. With a limited budget, racing a rally a month, doing my own builds, and rally service, something had to give. During the Sardegna Rally the engine of my Husaberg gave up the ghost. I was devastated! It had taken a lot of help from friends, a lot of money, and I had worked so hard to take part in a round of the world championships. Another lesson learnt - rallying was indeed a cruel mistress!

Back home though was some great news - my entry for the dakar had been excepted. I jumped up and down with excitement, phoned my friends and family and then 10 minutes later........"Crap! this is actually happening - there's so much to do!"

Over the previous two months I'd struck up a good relationship with Midwest Racing who ran the UK Husqvarna racing team. I took delivery of my new Midwest FE450 but there was no time to play - I was leaving for Scotland to cycle the length of the country as part of my training. Arriving back in the South West some 1,000 miles later and things were looking on the up again, but my bad luck was about to return. Whilst out training for the Dawn To Dusk 24 hr I crashed and fractured my wrist. Whilst in plaster my training continued - I was determined to make the Merzouga Rally start line. Arriving in Morocco, Keith and myself went for a training session in the dunes. We had both suffered bust wrists and my riding and confidence levels were well below par. To make things worse I acquired a viral infection and battled with dehydration from day 3 onwards. By day 5 I was hanging! I proceeded to try and ride the last day but didn't even make it to to the 1st liaison on time. There was some serious work to do if I was ever going to complete my Dakar dream.

It was now the end of October and the bike build had barely started, there was still no jacket, no graphics, the packing lists weren't done, the bike hadn't been run in yet, my race license wasn't complete, bits had still not arrived from the navigation mounting kits, there was no bash plate/water tanks built, the deal on tyres/mousses didn't materialise, suspension needed setting up, and my riding confidence was at rock bottom. Shit!

The next 4 weeks were pretty stressful and there was just no time to stay on top of my training schedule. Martin at Torque rescued me with the tyres/mousses, Midwest Racing set up my suspension and helped out with the spares package, John at Rally Raid Products fabricated the navigation mounting parts, MD restorations built me a bash plate/water tanks, and my neighbours were in the garage helping out to silly o'clock in the morning. There was still no jacket!

December came quickly and the bike build was now only some wiring looms away from being finished. I spent the day before with Torque Racing HQ desperately trying to get the bike finished and do an interview with MCN before everything got shipped the next day to Le Havre. It is a major relief when you're bike passes the 1st technical checks and all your gear is on its way to South America - you can almost relax! I then went for my last training session with James West, and was really pleased to have some company this time. I took my good friend Keith with me who I'd met at the Tuareg and the Merzouga rallies.

The training continued through December and the jacket arrived the week before Christmas. It wasn't the one ordered but I was just glad to have something to wear.

2015: I was in Buenos Aeries and the dream was now a reality. Leaving the safety of the 1st bivouac we were all thrust into super stardom on route to the start podium. 800,000 people, TV cameras, jumbo screens, and a carnival atmosphere awaited us and it was as exciting as it was overwhelming. It was a long journey back from the start podium as the riders dealt with the mass of enthusiastic supporters getting their photos and autographs.

It was the last night in the hotel, and it was also the 1st of many early starts. A long liaison with yet more supporters flanking each side of the road eventually took us to our 1st Dakar special. It felt like hours waiting for the off, but once going the nerves and fears soon subsided and I was on my way. The 1st section was a man made track with spectators everywhere and then onto the fast fire track roads which were occasionally broken up with the jumps over the railway tracks. I was surprised to be keeping position and was enjoying the overtaking and being overtaken in the dusty tracks. I then noticed the handlebars were not turning, pulled off the track, and found the Iritrak box had parted with its bracket and was lodged between the forks and nav tower. It was wedged properly and took a while to get back in its rightful place. It was only day 1 and the zip ties were out already. I had now lost some 40 places fixing the problem. It was going to be a long day 2 starting at the back of the field.

Day 2 was dusty business battling with the quads and consequently I was being sensible with the overtaking manoeuvres. No point in taking any risks so early on. Once past the quads we entered soft, sandy, rutted pistes. Suddenly I heard the Sentinel alarm go off for the 1st time - it was Carl. He'd had a small off but the bike now wouldn't start. Unable to help I carried on to the fuel stop where I was happy to see I'd caught up with many riders. I was also pleased to see Carl arrive shortly after - he'd sorted out the problem and was going well. On the move again and the Sentinel was going crazy - the cars had caught up and things were about to get more interesting. Then the Sentinel went off again - a rider had been hit by a car! Further down the special I was passing riders more frequently. Some where at the side of the track looking tired, others were struggling in the soft sandy tracks and it wasn't long before I heard the Sentinel again - another rider was down. More sandy tracks but that was OK - I had spent many hours learning this type of terrain so was disappointed to hear the Sentinel again. The stage had been cut short due to the extreme heat - there were many riders suffering from dehydration. One such rider was our team mate Ralph - he'd got caught up in the chaos and suffered a broken hand as well as being dehydrated. His Dakar was over.

Day 3 started with a long liaison and unfortunately a rider went out having had a collision with in the busy traffic. The special contained 100k of dry river beds, fast tracks with zero visibility and hidden rocks, tough navigational areas, technical sections in gullies/river beds and the dreaded fesh fesh. Met Carl on route and he was having problems with the fuel pump. Mikael was there trying to help. In the dry river beds my bash plate ejected causing the bike to trip over itself. I then later was swapping positions with another team mate - Jasper.

We rode through the maze of slippery rocks and sand together. We both suffered front end wash-outs and then we had more fesh fesh tracks to finish the day. We got back to the bivouac in good time but our celebrations were cut short when we heard that Carl didn't make the day and was out. 2 of our team out in 2 days. Then to top it off we heard the sad news that a fellow competitor, Polish rider Michal Hernik, had lost his life during the special. It had been an emotional day.

It was hard to forget about the incidents of yesterday but settled down for the 600k liaison over the mountains. The cold was something I'd never really associated with the Dakar - but here we were wrapped up in warm jackets and gloves looking at snow capped mountains. I could tell we were at a high altitude as the bike was down on power which made the overtaking of the service vehicles in the dusty conditions just a little more interesting. Luckily for me I didn't suffer from any symptoms of altitude sickness - result! iPod switched on to take my mind off the monkey butt and the cold we soon reached the border into Chile and finally the start of the special. This was a proper Dakar day and I loved the special. More of everything as in day 3, and some more crashes in the dust. Had to put the hammer down now as the cars were on their way. The inevitability of the Sentinal going off was unbearable. The cars passed soon enough, but they all graciously gave fair warning and space. Up next - the dunes! I really enjoyed this part of the day. Steep climbs, rapid descents, and I was just smiling the whole time.

At CP3 the organisation was very pro-active with concern for the riders. "Do you need water" they repeated. "You're nearly at the end and going really well" I just replied that I was really enjoying myself and wanted to crack on. There were a few more big climbs - full speed on the downside and only just making it on the next summit.

The next section was a giant bowl with riders scattered about unable to make the climb out. I remembered my training and took a different route, but with only 40k to go the front wheel found something hidden beneath the sand and it was all over. Luckily I was in a spectators area and Mikael was right behind me. Very quickly my hand was put in a splint, the organisation contacted, and I was collected by the helicopter to the medical tent. The x-ray confirmed the fractures and I was numb with disappointment. The only plus side was that whilst waiting for the helicopter I witnessed the chaos unfold as further down the field the bikes, trucks, quads, buggies, and cars battled to get up this climb. The noise and sights were exhilarating! It was as mad as it was beautiful! Back with the team I waited for our missing team mates to arrive but they didn't come - they would spend the night in the dunes!

The 2 missing riders arrived the next morning - they had had little sleep and the bikes were in a bad way. The mechanics got to work, I donated parts from my bike, we got Selcuk a new helmet (his was smashed badly), and they went on their way. Selcuk unfortunately didn't make the day - that was 4 riders in the team out in 4 days!

After 3 days unable to sleep in the team campsite due to the pain I flew home. At A&E back home I found out that I'd also fractured a vertebrae and done my ribs - I won't be riding for 3 months!

Of course I am bitterly disappointed to of gone out of the competition so early but I can take some solace knowing that my riding and fitness levels were up to scratch, I was gaining between 10-17 places daily, got back to the bivouac at a decent hour every day, met new friends, thoroughly enjoyed myself, had good press coverage, and raised a little for charity.

Well, the story cant end here. I didn't sell the family home and give 3 years of my life not to complete my goal. I have a place on a team for Dakar 2016 and although I don't have the funds I had last year I am more determined than ever to fulfil my dream.

I'm currently seeing an excellent physio, have been swimming, was able to go to the gym the other day, and in the next 3 weeks I hope to be running again. In May I will be taking part in my 1st rally of the year - The Hellas.

Doing it on a budget - I will be taking a leaf out of Jenny's book and riding the bike to and from the event in Greece. I'll be entering the twin class using a modified 950 Super Enduro. After my plans are to take part in the Spanish Baja, and the Merzouga. I will also compete in UK enduros such as the Dawn2Dusk and the Welsh 2 Day.

I will of course be continuing my story to Dakar 2106 here, and Jenny Morgan will be filling in for me during my absences whilst I'm racing. Readers can also follow me on Twitter: and facebook: More information can be found on my web site:
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Old 02-13-2015, 05:05 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to hearing more tales of Dirt & Dakar

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Old 02-13-2015, 05:08 PM   #3
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Old 02-13-2015, 08:02 PM   #4
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Great post and great effort so thanks for posting it and please post more when you can
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Old 02-13-2015, 08:35 PM   #5
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This was great to read and got me inspired to up my game. Thank you for sharing your journey and looking forward to seeing you next year. Good luck on your quest as we will all be rooting for you.
I don't suffer from insanity, everyone else around me does...
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Old 02-13-2015, 08:57 PM   #6
on the gas or brakes
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Best first post ever

Have you thought about forgoing the planned races for 2015 and apply the budgets for them for January ?
Thanks for the 2015 support: BELL HELMETS, SCOTT USA, Kriega USA, SEATCONCEPTS.COM , Galfer USA,, GPR stabilzers, Sidi/Motonation, Masters paint and body, Magura , Motolab , Loctite and Dunlop tires .
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Old 02-14-2015, 12:22 AM   #7
carryoncorky OP
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Originally Posted by wrk2surf View Post
Best first post ever

Have you thought about forgoing the planned races for 2015 and apply the budgets for them for January ?
Hi, firstly thanks for reading and approving. Writing isn't my strong point but hopefully it will improve with time. The reason for doing these events in 2015 is firstly to keep my rally brain/body functioning (there's no better training than riding), and too show ASO (the Dakar organisers) that I haven't been slacking off. ASO will want to see that I have been continuing with my racing before they except my entry again.
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Old 02-14-2015, 05:49 AM   #8
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Thanks for sharing and best of luck
Roaming Rally 2015

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Old 02-14-2015, 08:35 AM   #9
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I love this kind of threads
Best of luck mate
I hope to hear more from you.

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Dakar 2015
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Old 02-14-2015, 08:39 AM   #10
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Way to go

thanks for sharing. Gives hope to other over 40 dreamers of Dakar lol.
The road less traveled is the road I travel more.

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." Dean Martin
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Old 02-14-2015, 11:07 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Surf & Moto View Post
I love this kind of threads
Best of luck mate
I hope to hear more from you.

Yeah, what he said!
Sitting home f5ing, agonizing over the late arrival of #??? at a CP and wondering and speculating what the heck happened, is fun and rewarding but hearing what was actually going on out there on (or off) piste is so much more. Thanks heaps for giving us your insight. I for one will be following your run-up to Dakar 2016.
So many bikes, so little time (and money)
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Old 02-14-2015, 10:42 PM   #12
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Thanks very much for taking the time, I'm very much in the same position as the other guys, watching the trackers and speculating and wondering. It's very cool to hear it from the horse's mouth, we were really pulling for you.

And yes, as far as first posts go, I'm not sure that one can be beat.

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Old 02-15-2015, 01:19 AM   #13
carryoncorky OP
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4 rallies in 4 months - An insight into my Dakar preparations

This is a piece I wrote when I was pretty low after I DNF'd at the Sardegna Rally in 2014. Thought I would share.

4 rallies in 4 months with the last event being an FIM world championship event - sounds simple enough right! The reality is far from easy as I was to find out.
Trying to juggle normal life with rallying is at best challenging and always frustrating. On a budget you have to ride what you have, do your own bike builds, maintenance, and basically beg, borrow, and steal to get to the next event. It's a time when you find out who you're real friends are as they give you their time knowing you can not return the favour. Every evening is spent in the garage working on the bike or on the computer trying to organise flights, transfers, race insurance, fill in registration forms, source parts/spares, etc, etc.
After a rally you're bike and gear arrives quite sometime after you've arrived home and it leaves again well before you fly out leaving little time to do what's needed. You're riding gear needs washing, you're rally box needs replenishing (everything in there will be covered in sand), the bike washed (1 day wasted there), air filters cleaned/re-oiled, tyres/mousses changed, bike maintenance done, camping gear aired, and then the bike altered/modified to suit the needs of the next event. This includes fuel capacity alterations, changes in navigation equipment, wiring, full fairing or rally lite kit, alterations to personal safety/medical kit, etc, etc, etc.
Also during this time you need to physically recover and then get back into you're training regime as soon as possible. You have another race to attend after all! This is when the training done during the winter months comes into play. I'm not naturally athletic and have to put in the hours but it's a must. During a rally you hurt (that goes without saying) but after it's how quickly you can recover. For some riders it takes a long time, for the likes of Coma and co they only get 1 week off after the Dakar! I've also had to sort my FIM licence (nightmare organising the medical tests/total pleasure dealing with the ACU), write/print/send my Dakar presentation, build a web site, design race gear/merchandise, find sponsorship, constantly update the social media sites, etc, etc. All this means that time is not on you're side and it unfortunately becomes the norm to still be doing work on the bike 10 minutes before your start time. This then leeds to the inevitable mechanical failures during an event. People have said I've had a bad run of luck but realistically it's a failure on my part to find time. It's easy to say I could of done better if this and that didn't happen but it's rallying and very few riders have a problem free event. It's all part of the experience! In the Tuareg the clutch plates wore out, and there was a fuelling problem. In the Libya bad fuel caused injector failure, tank leaked, and the clutch lever did nothing. During the Hellas the motor was woefully lacking power, exhaust fell off, and the steering head bearing shot. Finally no working clutch again, and the motor died on me in the Sardegna Rally after only 2 specials and a prologue! I now have 4 months until my next rally so plenty of time...... or is there?
As for the Dakar - my registration is in and now I must wait. I genuinely don't know if I'll get in. There are deals with sponsors and a brand new bike waiting for me. I will be using tried and trusted rally parts making the bike light and strong but its all in limbo until I receive the reply from ASO. I'm happy with my riding, and have more days planned with James West in Dubai to improve my dune/sand riding. I need to be smoother and quicker. My biggest issue is the heat. In all 3 of the last rallies I have constantly found myself needing more water! Lastly, I have no problems with a week in the saddle but the 2nd needs work. I have now 6 months to correct this.
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Old 02-15-2015, 01:44 AM   #14
JMo (& piglet)
Gone a bit Baja
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What an epic story already!

To add to what Chris has already said, these two photos illustrate perfectly just how harshly your luck can change in the matter of a few days in Dakar:

With ktmmitch from Rally Raid Products prior to the start...

A few days later having breakfast in the bivouac:

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Old 02-15-2015, 04:55 AM   #15
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Thanks for sharing.

Great read.

I respect your dedication to getting to the Dakar.

Get the DVD "Dream Racer" and watch it. I hope it gives you inspiration to get back and finish the job at Dakar 2016.

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