IN THE FUTURE, THE DAKAR RALLY WILL BE A REALLY BIG DEAL IN THE USA AMONG THE BIKE FANS- WHEN THAT HAPPENS THESE TWO HEROES WILL BE CREDITED FOR THEIR EFFORTS
The unknown. It is the mystery of what we’ve yet to understand that draws us in; but for some, the unknown is something to avoid kind of like resistance of someone not wanting to get out of there comfort zone.
The DAKAR RALLY has these effects particularly in North America where the rally is hugely under-represented and largely ignored. As we try to explain this cause and effect relationship its almost like opening Pandora’s box because the United States is a leader in motorsports racing yet our racing culture is very different than other parts of the world (i.e.: the difference between NASCAR and WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP). This divergence in culture is what makes the DAKAR seem so foreign. No American has ever won the DAKAR and only a relative few have even tried. But once a fan or racer gets their first taste of the DAKAR, they become hooked. Still, it is a matter a drawing attention to the rally many call the world’s largest and most significant motorsports event.
When American motorcycle champion Kurt Caselli became a last minute choice to replace KTM’s Mark Coma, it was good news for US fans of the DAKAR because we need someone as likable as Caselli to go down to South America, do well and bring the word of the DAKAR back home to the fans.
That’s exactly what happened when Caselli, aka “Captain America” won his first ever DAKAR stage (stage 7), surprising many in a very good way. Social media allowed the word of Caselli’s historic win to spread quickly, pointing many fans to tune into nightly coverage of each days highlights on NBC Sports channel. Later in the rally’s stage 11, Caselli won again. This is important here because news of the rookie American’s success began to force fans to learn more about the complexities of the rally’s compliance and rules. The better Caselli did, the more his fans need to learn about the DAKAR.
The same is true when it comes to 11-time BAJA 1000 winner Johnny Campbell, a hugely popular icon in the desert and a 3-time DAKAR finisher. Campbell’s allure is mighty and news of him being named to HRC’s new HONDA RALLY Team back in October spread quickly. When Campbell earned a 2nd place finish in stage 8, all of his fans back home continued to cheer him on. When word started spreading that Campbell was suffering painfully injured ribs and some serious bumps and bruises, fans rallied even harder for “Mr. 11-Time”
There are many barriers to the DAKAR, not the least of which is the massive financial commitment, which is staggering. Next, the labyrinth of technical compliance, navigation requirements and tricky regulations make the DAKAR an “extreme event” and that’s even before the first stage starts. Finally, a notable barrier to the DAKAR is its foreign nature: this isn’t the way we race in our deserts.
Still, DAKAR fever is catching on in the US every New Year due partly to Facebook, Twitter and youtube. But when a really well-liked pair of American champions start getting podium stage finishes, it is a sign of things to come: Kurt Caselli will be back next year and, if he decides he really wants to focus on it, he will likely win the next DAKAR Rally in 2014. When that happens, the US sponsors will grow a few pairs and start supporting our best racers in the world’s premier Rally Raid.