On November 11, 2010, Dakar driver Mark Jennings-Bates recently returned to Canada with a few broken bones after a training camp in the Moroccan sand dunes of Erg Chebby. The Dakar driver who drives for the Bowler Offroad Team in the UK was there with his co-driver, Britain’s Mick Extance who has a reputation for being fast in the sand dunes and has kept up with and ridden faster than Dakar winners on many occasions including, Spain’s Marc Coma a multiple Dakar champion.
“It was a tough trip and closing out a tough year” said Jennings-Bates. “With our races in Canada we have been denied the podium three times, most recently in Merritt at the Pacific Forest Rally where 10km from the podium, sitting in 3rd place, the car caught fire and we had no choice but to stop… then I have an accident in Morocco that shortened the training I could do. Hopefully we will have the car and me back together for the Big White Winter Rally on December 4th in Kelowna British Columbia” said Jennings-Bates.
The Rally4Life duo were able to get some serious training time in prior to the accident which was in a very remote area of the Sahara close to the Algerian border and the knowledge the team acquired will stand them in good stead for their upcoming endeavours.
“At the end of the day, I was able to witness the pace and endurance required to compete in the Dakar, which many drivers don’t understand. The broken bones are limited to a few breaks in my clavicle and a rib so it should not affect my schedule too much” added Jennings-Bates.
The training camp allowed Jennings-Bates and his co-driver to travel on former Dakar stages through Morocco on Honda CRF450′s, experiencing rocky river beds, fast salt flats and sand dunes. The team camped out in the Morocco for most of the time, experiencing true bivouac conditions, an element of the Dakar that is somewhat missing in it’s current location in South America.
Prior to the Morocco trip, Jennings-Bates and his wife Jackie had been in a remote part of Kenya for two weeks witnessing the installation of a clean water project in the northern part of the country with their partners Just A Drop who they assist with fund raising efforts through Rally4Life. The couple are in the process of raising $4 million to save 200,000 lives by giving communities access to safe water.
The Rally4Life Canadian team is based in Kelowna, British Columbia and competes in the Western Canada Rally Championship and select events in the Canadian Rally Championship which is broadcast in High Definition on TSN. Mark is also driver for the factory Bowler Offroad Team in the new Bowler EXR a purpose built Dakar vehicle and will be challenging for a top position in Dakar rallies.
In Canada, the team is supported by HELIOS Global Tracking, Ksport USA, Aerius Engineering, BC Resort Homes, Big O Tires Westbank, AGAR Paint and Autobody, Wyatt Autoparts, Provision Data, Bell Racewear, Pinnacle Elite Athletes and Pinnacle Physiotherapy, and Apple Valley Massage.