Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Injury inspires brave Dakar debut

Dakar Rally Argentina Chile 2011 latest news
December 17, 2010 – 6:47 pm
Injury inspires brave Dakar debut

The Dakar race is the Everest in my Life”. So says Durban boy Iain Stevenson who will be tackling the 32nd edition of the Dakar Rally, which kicks off on New Year’s Day and ends on January 16. It will be the first time the 41 year old father of three will take on the world’s longest and toughest offroad race, and his ride is a 2009 KTM 690.

“From as long as the event has been televised locally I have followed the event and dreamt of one day completing it,” said UK born Stevenson.

His motivation stems from his dad passing away, and a serious back injury in 2008 which left him immobilised for three months – an experience he describes as life-changing.

“I needed a goal that was going to take total commitment and something that was going to test my courage”.

After recovering from the back surgery, Stevenson purchased the KTM and started scouring every navigable track in the Natal Midlands. After a trip down to the Natal coast earlier this year he stopped by Dakar veteran and multiple champion, Alfie Cox’s shop in Pinetown and that’s where the Dakar dream started taking shape.

“The ever-optimistic Alfie said to me that if I put my mind to it and approached it seriously then it’s not impossible. Alfie had a spot available and I had to give him my final decision by June; this was the date when entries were opened.

“I put my head down, got back on my bush bike, whipped myself in the gym and entered in July”

Cox helped Stevenson source the right bike for the rally, a 2009 KTM 690 from Martin Freinademetz – who himself competed in the 2009 Dakar and finished in the top 40. The 690cc bike arrived in August in its original KTM orange, which was then changed to white to better suit sponsor Comsol’s corporate colours.

The bike was then totally rebuilt and Stevenson has tested it on two events: a 400km event in Pongola and a week in Namibia which included a day in the dunes with Cox. The time with Cox included riding hundreds of kilometers of sandy river beds and tracks, and tackling the dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

“The bike is exhilarating to ride and in the words of Alfie Cox is a weapon,” says Stevenson.

Iain is a supporter of the Cipla Miles for Smiles foundation which was formed to assist Operation Smile in creating awareness for the plight of children born with cleft lips and palates and raise funds to perform corrective surgery on them.

The epic long-distance rally, run for the third time in South America, takes competitors to the extreme northern regions of Argentina and Chile, to the Bolivian and Peruvian borders, before heading back to Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The design of the route, consisting of 9000km of roads, tracks and dunes (nearly 5000km of which are competition), was compiled with the more difficult stages in the second half for maximum suspense. The highest elevation is the San Francisco pass between Chile and Argentina at 4726 metres above sea level.

Apart from Stevenson, South Africa will have several other competitors in the 2011 Dakar, headed by 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers who is again behind the wheel of a factory Volkswagen Touareg turbodiesel shared with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Others flying the SA flag are Ralph Pitchford who is navigating for America’s Mark Miller in another factory Touareg, and offroad legend Cox who is driving an Overdrive Racing Team Nissan Navara. South African Production Car champion Anthony Taylor will make his Dakar debut in a MAN support truck, navigated by SA offroad stalwart Juan Mohr. Enduro rider Albert Hintenaus, riding a KTM in the motorcycle category, will compete in his third Dakar.

Lining up at the start will be 430 vehicles (183 bikes, 33 quads, 146 cars and 68 trucks) piloted by racers from 51 different countries.

To follow Stevenson on the Dakar, or for more information visit www.iain-stevenson.com

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