Simon and Lewelyn Pavey have made Dakar history today by completing the 2015 Dakar Rally. The father and son team have had their fair share of problems in the 2015 rally but a true gritty performance right to the end created a new motorcycling mantra: to finish, first you must be determined.
As KTM’s Marc Coma was on his way to collecting his fifth Dakar victory, Simon and Llewelyn were slogging it out in what Simon describes as “maybe the hardest day of the rally” towing each other through horrendous muddy conditions.
A huge downpour brought the rally to a premature end when the farm tracks leading towards Buenos Aires became incredibly slippery, leaving the organisers little choice but to cut the stage short. With electrical problems still plaguing the number 75 machine, Simon and Llel were forced to tow the stricken bike out of the shortened 101kms stage – not normally a difficult task but in terrible muddy conditions today it became almost impossible. It took them a whopping hour to complete the final kilometres.
Without question getting to the end of today’s stage and the rally finish was as much about the sheer dedication of the SP FiFTYONE support crew as it was about the sheer determination of the riders. On a normal day the Dakar is hard on both riders and support teams but the 2015 rally has been amplified dramatically by problems created on stage eight, when organisers sent the bikes across a wet salt lake in Uyuni.
Attrition rates were extremely high across the bike entrants, largely due to the salt working its way into all parts of bikes. But for the resourcefulness and mechanical know-how of the riders on the stage and the support crew all night, Simon and Llel would have surely added to the list of non-finishers.
What will surely be labeled one of the hardest Dakars in recent history brings Simon’s tally to 10 and has been a tough baptism for Llewelyn in his first. After finishing this ‘extreme human adventure’ Team SP FiFTYONE has certainly earned a beer tonight.
Today was a mad day, the hardest of the rally in some ways. Everyone set off at the start like scolded cats in the dry and the dust, which was unbelievable in itself. We just decided to let them get on with it because there was nothing to be gained or lost.
Then the heavens opened and half the people who’d come flying past us were laying upside down at the side of the track because they couldn’t ride mud. It was unreal and to be honest really, really funny.
But that quickly turned on us. As soon as Llel’s bike got wet it just died so we had quite a few Ks of towing through mud that you wouldn’t believe. Llel was awesome holding on to the tow. Basically a rally bike on desert tyres doesn’t grip too well in those conditions so you have to hook second gear and keep it pinned. I was just filling him in permantanly for kilometre after kilometre. The top layer of mud was so thick I have no idea how he held on. I would have given up long before!
We got out though and it was fun, I guess. I think we’re both just exhausted. The effort put in by Evan and John has been unbelievable too and there’s no way we could have been at the podium there without them. The rally this year has ticked all the emotions boxes that’s for sure. Despair, hope, tears, highs – all were there. And that was just today!
We began our day steady today, mainly because my bike was running really badly but also because there was no point in going mental like everyone else. It was dry at the start and for some reason people who’d been steady all week went crazy. I don’t really know why.
After about 60kms we were in the middle of the field and the rain came down out of nowhere. It rained a bit then was dry and then came down properly torrential. Because it was so dry otherwise, it just became this slime on top of hard ground that you could barely walk on.
And it just turned into carnage, utter carnage. People were everywhere – really good riders just doing 3kms with their feet out like clubmen. So for a while we were doing well, I think I over-took 20 people in 2kms at one point.
But then the bike just stopped again. The whole front of the bike went live too so the bars, levers anything metal was live. We tried to fix it but just decided to tow our way out.
Which was hard, hard work at times, fun but hard. I basically had to guess my way a lot of the time, close my eyes and hold on hard while dad nailed it.
It’s hard to say how I feel now, I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet but it’s almost an anti-climax that the rally is over. I’m just tired I guess. I’m not sure the bike would’ve lasted another day anyhow. I definitely feel like we did a good job of getting all the stories packed in there for my first rally!