DAKAR Practice runs Gallery
Namib dunes a good place to prepare for Dakar Rally A GROUP of South African and New Zealand bikers that will race in the 2012 Dakar Rally, for the past two weeks tested their motorbikes and skills in the dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, which they consider an ideal training ground. The group consisted of professional riders, national champions and off road specialists, while Namibia’s two-time Dakar participant, Ingo Waldschmidt, joined the group to show them the ropes. Waldschmidt ended 52nd in 2009, and then 38th in 2010. He told The Namibian that he hopes to race the 2013 Dakar. The Dakar is a two-week rally during January that stretches 9 500km across Argentina, Chile and Peru, and that will take the riders over Chile’s Atacama desert. “About 40 percent of the Dakar is through dune terrain, and that’s what makes our dunes in Namibia such a good place to prepare for the rally. The overall conditions are also very similar to those in the Dakar,” said Waldschmidt. The riders were guided by Africa Motion Tours, and the caliber of the riders participating in the exercise brought along sponsors like Tata Namibia (for a support vehicle); and Red Bull, Milo and Nestle for energy drinks, refreshments and water. Chris Birch (five time New Zealand Enduro Champion), and South African professionals, Darryl Curtis, Iain Stevenson, Greg Raaff and Niel Scott Williams arrived in Windhoek last week before making their first trip to the Brandberg area where they mainly focused on ‘road-book’ navigation – an intense navigation system that uses a paper scroll with hand-written directions, odometre readings and GPS coordinates all at once. “The best navigator will win the Dakar. It comes with a lot of riding, practice and experience to be able to understand the navigation system in order to be successful,” Waldschmidt explained. The riders brought the newest Austrian-made KTM 450cc bikes for the exercise. The 450cc is apparently the maximum size motorbike allowed at the Dakar, and the latest models are fitted for the Dakar occasion. Besides Stevenson having to withdraw from the 2011 Dakar on Stage 8 (Day 10) due to an injury sustained after a fall, this would be the first Dakar for all the riders. The feelings were mutual among them when asked why they were participating in what is known as the ultimate rally. It has to do with a love for biking that goes back to their childhood years, and realising a dream of always wanting to participate in the the toughest rally in the world. “It’s not about winning; it’s about participating, and hoping to finish it,” they agreed.