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February 5, 2009

Race to Dakar

by Charley Boorman

Having embraced, devoured and been completely captivated byThe Long Way Round and The Long Way Down (I’ve never been a bike fan, but Ewan and Charley still made me want to go and splash the cash on a new BMW right there and then and go zipping off (falling off, more like) round the world!), I had no hesitation whatsoever picking up this book. Whether you’re a biker or not, all of these stories are truly enthralling and it’s not all about the bike (haven’t I heard that somewhere before?).

Race to Dakar is Charley Boorman’s story of his ambition to one day “do the Dakar”, a (pipe?) dream he had had for years. But motivated by his experiences with Ewan on his previous two epic journeys, and with the support of friend and producer Russ Malkin and crew, as well as his family and friends, the time was finally right and the opportunity finally came to enter the 2006 Dakar Rally.

But the story does far more than take us through the gruelling, challenging, legendary, energy-sapping, soul-destroying race from Lisbon to Dakar, a race distance of 15,000 miles, it also reveals just how much work goes into preparing for the rally and what it takes just to get to the start – a major challenge in itself. All respect to those who make it that far, when you consider how much funding, sponsorship, equipment, support and paperwork is required.

You really feel for Charley when he breaks his wrists in an accident on day five of the rally, spelling the end of his campaign after a serious amount of preparation both on and off the bike. Undeterred, however, he soldiers on to make sure he does whatever he can to help the two other riders on his team make it as far as possible. We also get to witness the challenges facing some of the other riders competing in the rally, the highs, the lows, the tragedies. I for one never fully appreciated how close to death these guys – and girls – actually come. What becomes clear is that the Dakar is much more about mental strength than physical strength, pushing every competitor to the absolute limit. To take part you have to be very brave – or have no sense of danger whatsoever!

I loved the book, now I look forward to the DVD…

James’ out-of-five star rating: ****

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