Scottish Enduros 2019 - www.scottishenduros.co.uk
DIARY OF THE 2004 DAKAR RALLY
Having returned from 2003 Dakar in Egypt, with 2nd Brit under my belt, I felt the Dakar had more to offer; my sites were already set for the 2004 Rally, a top twenty finish and 1st Brit.
A team was beginning to form, this would consist of myself and fellow British rider and 1st time to the Rally John Walker. Our chief mechanic was to be Andrew Chester a keen off-road motorcyclist and mechanic in 2003 Rally, once again we would use the assistance of Rally-Raid UK, a company based in Leeds who had assistance vehicles for us to use. Other help came in the form of a team of volunteers who would assist in the European stages.
The following months were to be spent chasing potential sponsors, privateers have to spend in the region of £25-£30,000 to compete in the Dakar and for that you will receive a very basic package of assistance, your entry and other expenses.
After months of trying to gain financial backing, help came in the form of my boss, Mark Scott from Presscrete an off-road motorcycle enthusiast. He offered to lend me the money that was needed to compete in the Dakar and a secured loan on the house will ensure that he is paid back.
Product sponsorship thankfully was easier to find with 2 rallies behind me I felt that people within the motorcycle fraternity were starting to have some faith in me and were happy to help. Pidcock motorcycles of Derby were to supply my rally bike once again a XR650 and John had his bike supplied by Adventure Trail Tours an off-road training school set up in mid September by me, John and Andrew.
The rally bikes had now arrived and work began on bike preparation for the rally, larger tanks were to replace the standard size, brackets were made to hold the satellite navigation system and road books. Meanwhile all paperwork for the rally had to be completed; passports were sent off for visas and licences from the ACU applied for.
Mid December saw a quick trip to France to load the spares into the Rally-Raid assistance truck, work continued on the bikes until Christmas Eve.
28th December 2003
Left Derby at 8.00am to travel to Dover, scrutineering, administration checks and collection of safety equipment were to be on 30th December in Clermont Ferrand central France. Scrutineering takes up to six hours to go through, there is always doubt that the paperwork is not complete or the bike is not up to the correct standadard.This year the British licences seem to be causing the organisers problems, the ACU had not sent a list of British competitors and they were not accepting our licence to compete, a quick call home as the ACU was closed because of the Christmas holidays and my wife found a person who worked for the ACU who then contacted the Rally organisers and confirmed that my licence was valid.This was a reminder of how the organisation works in France, and a huge sigh of relief. Once through scrutineering we then attend safety briefings which are compulsory. These consist of the workings of the GPS systems and riders safety.
After a long day of checks it is nice to see the bike parked up in the park ferme, you know you are definitely on your way.
31st December 2003
Last minute packing ensuring things like tools basic clothing etc are on the trucks and that you are not carrying too much weight in the truck as this can cost you a lot of money. Check that wheels and tyres are ready for the aeroplanes.
Expecting to find a New Years party somewhere but all is quiet, so we all ended up at Mc Donalds and tucked up in the caravan for ten thirty, happy New Year!!!!!
1st January 2004
The first bikes would be off at 12 Oclock this was to be a prologue stage of 1.6kms and the beginning of the Dakar Rally. 198 bikes at the start 11 British the largest British entry on bikes. My start time was to be 13.30; this year was unusual as the Rally started at midday it usually started at midnight, walked around the park wondering what the rally will bring. Attended our compulsory pre-rally briefing not much point in going as it was not translated into English!!! Must take up French when I get home.
Rally Raid team at the start of the 2004 Dakar Rally
January 1st 2004 1st stage
After days of travelling and numerous checks and meetings it was a nice feeling to get on my bike and put my head into race mode.
The weather was awful, heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures but no problems encountered for any of the British competitors and a crowd of 100.00
To send us on our way. From there onto Narbonne,where we were allowed to transport the bikes by van unfortunately we got stuck behind a snowplough. Overall placing 16th. Good result for the first day.
2nd January 2004 2nd stage
The special stage in Narbonne was 25kms up into the hills, it felt more like an enduro in North Yorkshire wet, muddy and rocky.
From Narbonne, a long liaison into Castillon, Spain. Overall placing 32nd
3rd January 2004 stage 3
The beach special at Castillon was to give all the competitors a sharp wake-up and an introduction to the sand, I feel that some people think that the European stages are easy, but believe me they are not. I was to take a fall along with many others including top KTM rider Cyril Despres. The bike landed on top of me and I struggled to get back on, this sent me plummeting down the rankings, even my wife called from the UK to ask me what I was playing at, I was very disappointed with myself, not a good position to start the desert stages in.
Overall placing 156th
After a long drive and boat crossing we had now crossed into Morocco, we disembarked from the boat and rode 13kms to Tangiers and our first African bivouac. A sharp reminder that we were in the Dakar Rally, our assistance truck did not arrive until six in the morning which had our sleeping bags, a night in our tents with only our race kit on, this is when you need to keep a good sense of humour as you will be needing it a lot more.
4th January Stage 4 Tangiers- ER Rachida
Up bright and early 6.30am for breakfast
This was to be the first African shake-down but was surprised to be met with large amounts of water in some places up to our waists. I had to stop a couple of times to secure my road book but enjoyed the stage as the African ones are longer than the European stages. On arrival to Er Rachida we were met with snow!! In Africa!! Despite that all in the British camp remained in good spirits. I had worked hard and managed to move back up the rankings.
Overall placing 63rd
5th January Stage 5 ER Rachida Ouarzazate
We had now entered into real desert terrain, the dust and sand dunes were upon us, a total of 575kms and 3 checkpoints had to be covered.
It had rained the night before and water was everywhere. We came across some rocky terrain that had to be negotiated with caution in some places the water was up to a metre deep. Jutta Kleinschmidt and Ari Vantanen in the cars, were to be victims of the water suffering engine problems as a result. The camera crews were encouraging us to ride towards them, they were stood next to the deepest puddles we soon realised to stay away from these guys as they were looking for good camera shots!! Despite the previous nights rain it was starting to feel warmer. Back at the bivouac the rally had started to bite and the realization of how tough it was going to be had started to sink in not only for the competitors but for their mechanics and support crew. The first Brit had gone out of the rally, Emmerson. I was starting to settle down I prefer the longer stages and felt fine.
Overall placing 136
6th January Stage 6 Ouarzazate - Tan-Tan
Now on the edge of Morocco. I had managed to gain a two hour penalty and I dont know why, still I will have plenty of time to sort that out. Today was a nice, flowing stage, but very dusty. Bike still in top shape. I came into the bivouac at 6pm and after our evening meal, we set to work on the bike, finished the bike at 10.30pm and set off to bed, well sleeping bag and tent, I had to be up at 12.30am for breakfast!! As my start time was to be at 01.15am
A total of 803 kms had been ridden 351 kms of special.
A more enjoyable day. Overall placing 104 ( with two hour penalty)
7th January Stage 7 Tan Tan Atar
We had now moved into Mauritania and on the boundary of the Sahara desert.
This was an early start of 1.15am a liaison of 345kms followed by a whopping special of 701kms a total of 1055kms in one day!!
Not long into this stage it was becoming obvious that this was going to be the end of a lot of peoples rally.
The last 100kms were to consist of very high and soft sand dunes you have to go up dunes fast otherwise you will get bogged down into the sand quickly, the danger of that is you do not know what is on the other side there could be a car, a stuck rider you have to take risks in order to finish. That day I came in 39th in the stage and still in daylight a great psychological boost for me and time to get some much needed rest.
Looking around the following morning you could see that the Dakar was starting to take its toll on the remaining competitors. By now 46 bikes had not made it from stages 5 to 7 3 of them were British. Overall placing 62nd
8th January Stage 8 Atar Tidjikja Non Assistance day
On non-assistance days the riders may only carry a minimal amount of tools on his bike air filters and a sleeping bag. There will be no mechanical assistance waiting for you until the following stage and no spares like wheels will be at the end of the stage all repairs have to be carried out by the riders themselves. I had been doing well and had managed to catch up with South African rider Alfie Cox and ride with the pack, we became lost, our navigation was telling us to go in a certain direction but there was a mountain in the way and we could not see how to get round it. I looked round and suddenly saw Steven Hague a fellow Brit with a local on the back of his bike,I decided to follow him and sure enough, the local led us to the pass in the mountain and we were through. Patsy Quick and Clive Town were timed out forcing them to retire. In all 35 bikes never finished stage 8.
The mood in the bivouac was uneasy to say the least after two hard days what was the next day going to bring? My mood had started to change, I became very fired up which I feel I have to be in order to become self focussed for the days that lay ahead of me, not a nice person to be around, ask my mechanic!! But this what it takes to survive in the Dakar, your not there to be nice to each other, your there to race and survive.
9th January Stage 9 Tidjikja Nema
Possibly the worst stage of the rally so far, a true Dakar, bum biting stage!!
Up at 6.00am I had done all the repairs that I could do with such limited resources and no mechanics. My start time was 7.40am everyone in the bivouac was full of anticipation and breakfast!! This stage was to be a personal challenge for me and I had to pull deep into my reserves for it.
I had been enjoying the stage, the terrain had consisted of sand tracks and camel grass. 200kms into the stage my clutch on the XR broke, I began repairing it and set off again, 10kms further it broke again I had no idea what to do I thought this was the end of my rally. Once again the ever versatile Steven Hague came to the rescue he showed me a way of jamming two clutch plates together, this proved to save me from disaster and I was on my way again. I had lost 4hours in time and decided to make as much headway as possible as I would start to lose daylight hours. I caught up with Steven and Simon Pavey another British rider we decided to stick together and finish this stage. By now it was dark and everyone was tired. It was like looking into a battlefield big strong grown men were sat on the sand dunes crying because they did not have the strength to pull their bikes out of the dunes and start riding, broken bodies were scattered everywhere, and the Dakar was taking casualties fast. With less than 40kms to go Simon took a heavy fall resulting in a broken collar-bone, Steve and myself stayed with him and made him as comfortable as we could, Steve set off and I let of my emergency distress beacon. I managed to flag down a truck and asked them to get medical assistance. I had to make the awful decision of leaving Simon to save my own rally, trucks were now passing throwing up sand and I was slipping further down the field. I left some food and drink with him and rode back with another bike rider. I came in at 2.00am I had been in the saddle for 18 hours!! Overall placing 50th
By now an official statement had been released, that stages 10 and 11 had been cancelled due to gun bandits roaming around in Mali. Rumours around the bivouac suggested that the organisers had halted the rally as so many were still stuck out in stage 9 and there wouldnt be much of a race left, there was a need for the rally to be re-grouped and some were to take three days to get to rest stage. I wasnt convinced that the statement was true, so I pushed the mechanics to carry on working on my bike as it was in a right state. A quick phone call to my wife to tell her I was in and then off to bed. The mechanics did me proud, I awoke in the morning to find my bike totally transformed to its former glory and at the front of the queue for transportation onto the plane. By now stage 9 had taken 26 bikes out of the race and over half the field in the motorbikes had gone. The bivouac resembled a ghost town.
Our bikes were collected up bikes and riders were flown on to rest day cars trucks mechanics had to drive there.
10th January stage cancelled
A day to chill and time to reflect on the last three days, I felt very drained and spent the day sleeping and catching up drinking water as I was starting to feel dehydrated. The day passed by very quickly and the weather was very hot 50degrees, my poor mechanics were still driving the 1000klms to rest day.
11th January stage cancelled.
A nice easy ride down to Bobo Dioulasso 500klms on the road, rode through many villages and starting to see the African culture, many local lined the roads and cheered us on though a few kids threw stones at us something they dont show on T.V. I was riding along with fellow Rally Raid team mate a Swedish guy called Bertil Marcusson, when suddenly his engine blew up I have never seen an engine in such a mess, bad luck for bertil but a sigh of relief for me as this engine
had been intended for my bike at rest day!!! We had to wait a long time for the support truck to arrive it was dark when we came into the bivouac.
Rally Raid truck in one of the villages
One very poorly engine!!!!
Rest day, Bobo Dioulasso
A welcomed rest for competitors and the mechanics, my mechanic had not slept for three days. I managed to do two interviews for the national newspapers and a T.V. interview for Euro-sport, nice to have some recognition for once.
All bikes repaired racing kit washed, my other clothes had been stolen so I had to wear my race kit. I had woken up with a very swollen face, thats why I had felt so tired, I went over to the medical tent that called a taxi and took me to the local dentist, it was filthy, and on the side was a pair of ancient pliers and a drill my tools were in better condition than his. Thankfully after an examination of my mouth the dentist said it could be treated with anti-biotics and anti inflammatory drugs, I still had to convince the rally organisers that I was fit to continue the rally. On the side of caution the mechanics decided to have some extra spare flown in for the bike. The last job on the bike in the evening was to drop the oil, only half a litre came out we soon realised that we had a problem with the bike burning oil. I had found out why the two hour penalty had been imposed, I had asked for a new time card in stage 6 as mine had become worn out, the organisers at the
checkpoint had given me a new one but the race control did not know this and had assumed that had lost my original card, the penalty was removed.
The Luxurious washing facilities at the Bivouacs
13th January stage 12 Bobo Dioulasso - Bamako
All of us were itching to get back on our bikes, after a short liaison we were back into the special, this stage was to be a slow one, we passed through 9 villages that all had to passed at a set speed set by the organisers of 30kph a lot of competitors picked up fines of 300 euros this goes back to the villages and a flashing light on your GPS indicates when to slow down. A bit of a jolly compared to the previous stage. Overall placing 49th
14th January stage 13 Bamako Ayoun El Atrous
I had now decided that I was not going to be able to get my top twenty finish that I had hoped for, but decided to go for first Brit.
By now the bike was starting to burn oil at an alarming rate, the mechanics set about stripping the engine and had ordered a piston from Belgium.
Much to our horror after stripping the engine right back, the piston that came did not fit. Once again my rally was in jeopardy I decided to retire to bed as I needed a break from it. The mechanics worked into the night and patched up the bike the best they could tomorrow was going to be a marathon stage and it was touch and go if I would finish it.
15th January stage 14 Ayoun El Atrous Tidjikja Non assistance day
Armed with extra rations of food and as much spare oil as I could carry in my pockets I set off, wishes of good luck and lots of fingers crossed followed me out of the bivouac
I began the liaison of 200kms. Once at the start of the special I checked the oil and well over a litre of oil had burned off. I started to refill my oil when a French mechanic who used to spanner for petahansel came over and suggested that I used diesel truck oil as this is much thicker and takes longer to burn. With nothing else to lose I emptied my bottles of bike oil and filled up with the truck diesel oil, and set off on my way into the special, wondering if I would come out the other side.
After 50kms into the special I checked my oil, much to my delight it was still full luck it seemed was finally on my side. The finish line was a welcomed site one I had not expected to see once again without my mechanic I bedded down for the night. Overall placing 47th
16th January Stage 15 Tidjikja Nouakchott
Fuel was going to be tight on this stage everyone left the bivouac with heavy tanks as the first refuelling point wasnt to be until 340 kms into the stage. Everyone was being careful not to push their bikes too hard as they were so close to the end of the rally and did not want to run out of fuel. The stage was back in the dunes with tracks and camel grass.
Once refuelled, the going was good and I was able to push the bike a little more.
I arrived back to the bivouac much to my mechanics amazement, he thought I had gone out due to the oil problem. Nice to see Steven Hague a little while later we were now the only two Brits left in the motorbike category. I too was feeling great I had found my second wind and the antibiotics had started to work on my tooth and I was at last pain free.
Overall placing 44th
17th January stage 16 Nouakchott Dakar
Dakar now in my sites but never be complacent in this rally anything can go wrong. This was to be the last desert stage of the rally, I remained cautious and continued to check the oil on a regular basis but as the French guy had said it was still working. It was a relief to leave the final stage behind, we treated ourselves to a meal in a hotel our first glimpse of civilization in a long time. It felt very strange knowing that the Rally would soon be over we spent our last night in the tent
Overall placing 43rd
18th January Dakar-Dakar
Can smell the sea of Dakar coming ever closer, up early for a 7.00am start still classed as a stage and cards still have to be stamped. Short liaison followed by a 27kms special took it easy I wanted to see the beach at Dakar I had waited twenty years for this and I was going to enjoy every moment of it.
The atmosphere at the end of special was electric, waited for the only other surviving Brit Steven Hague and rode to the beach together, where after the special we walked into the sea fully clothed in race kit and just stood there taking it all in and taking what I think will be one of the best moments of my life. I shouted out "you Bastards You didnt get me" A short ride back to the Merridien Hotel and I was up on the podium once again collecting my medal but this time I am 1st Brit home. I felt sad that the rally was over I wanted to wind the clock back and start all over again as tough as it truly was I loved it This years Dakar will go down in motorsport history as one of the toughest yet and after years of working hard towards this and a lot of sacrifice made by myself and my family, I am proud to say I was one of the few who finished and survived the 2004 Dakar Rally.
Overall placing 43rd1ST BRIT ACROSS THE LINE.
Waiting to go on the podium, PG Lundmark in the background
Finally I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in the last three years, sponsors friends and family a very big Thank-You without you I would have not been able to do it.
Plans for 2005, yep Im definitely going back, ideally on a fully sponsored ride so I need your help, anybody who is interested in helping me especially financially can contact at:email@example.com I would like to see more commitment from the UK and with your help I am more than capable of a top twenty finish.
This year I am supporting cancer research so not only would you be helping me you would be giving to a very worthwhile cause, this charity was chosen as my father who was a founder member of Poole speedway died from prostate cancer nearly four years ago, my wife also works on a cancer ward and has seen much suffering.
Thanks for reading this and keep supporting me its great to know that people are behind you.
Copyright - Mick Extance 2004 - E-mail Mick if you wish to reproduce. firstname.lastname@example.org