From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


The Dakar rally has been won and lost once again but this year for the first time three Aussies finished in the top fifty which is not bad when you consider that up to 500 competitors take part.

I didn’t realise for instance that although pictures of motor bikes seem to dominate the news there are also sections for cars, quad bikes and even trucks.

My son made a rare visit to the grandstand this week reminding me just how tough this race is. He was last with us in 2010 as an avid Dragons fan, but another premiership looks a further decade away.  He reminded me that this race is considered to be the toughest sporting event on the sporting calendar. He may be right because our number one rider Toby Price almost killed himself this year after his accident. He ended up with a broken collarbone and is in hospital with severe concussion and apparently, he has accumulated thirty broken bones in his career.

This year a rider was killed and when Toby won the race in 2019 there was a rider was killed then as well. I asked my son why it was so tough, and he made some very pertinent points. For starters it is an endurance race. It goes for two weeks over some ten thousand kilometres through terrain of extreme difficulty – mud, rocks, sand and camel grass. You are expected to ride almost a thousand k’s each day. It used to be a race from Paris to Dakar.

This year, Toby caught our attention the way he repaired his tyre after the rubber was shredded by sharp rocks. He used tape and plastic zip ties to keep it from disintegrating as he had to complete the leg with what he started with. That was almost the distance from here to Sydney with a tyre in that condition. So, it’s tough on bikes and riders as well. No mechanics are allowed to help you as you have to do all your own repairs. I can’t even change a tyre on my pushy.

As he reminded me competitors are tough because unlike GP riders they are not on bitumen and it is not just a repetition of the same course over and over. Unlike rally drivers there is no one else there to assist with the navigation and prepare you for difficult sections. Even something like Bathurst, you know what to expect (Dick Johnson may disagree if you remember his rock incident). These Dakar riders have never ridden the track and all they have to guide them is some details on the front of their bike. Remember in the 1980’s when PM Thatchers son was lost for six days?

So well done Toby et al. I think everyone here in the grandstand has a new respect for what you have to go through. You may well be the toughest and fittest of our sporting elite.


PS My son although he owns some fourteen dirt bikes is still on the lookout for a Honda z 50 from the 1970’s if you can help please.