In just three short days, five Americans will depart from the United States and embark on a five thousand mile journey through South America. This journey isn’t for the weak or timid, this is a journey that only a few can endure and very few will even attempt. Fifteen days of pushing life to the limits, risking everything in order to accomplish the ultimate goal in off-road racing. The journey is The Dakar, as for the four Americans; they are the brave men that represent the United States of America in the 2013 Dakar Rally!
Every four years the United States sends a group of American athletes to a foreign country to compete in the summer Olympics. In off road racing, competitors from all locations of the globe come to South America (previously held in Africa prior to 2009) on a yearly basis to compete against some of the best off-road racers in the world. 460+ competitors from Africa, Egypt, France, Germany, Chile, Paraguay, Italy, Zambia and even Kazakhstan (yes Kazakhstan, the country nobody even knew existed until a movie called Borat hit the big screen) along with many more dare to tackle The Dakar Rally. This year’s race starts on January 5th, 2013 in Lima Peru and ends on January 20th, 2013 in Santiago Chile; a mere 5,000 total miles will be raced. Picture yourself racing from Los Angeles, California to New York City, New York… and back as fast as you possibly can in fifteen days off-road. With only one “rest day” (day 8) teams are able to do some housekeeping and catch up on things that may have been overlooked in the heat of the battle. Since its conception in 1978, never in Dakar history has a “rest day” been scheduled so late in the rally but to the U.S racers advantage this is also the first time the Dakar rally will see a scheduled desert section early in the rally (day 3-5).
Competitors representing the United States:
Bike – #33 Johnny Campbell – Factory Honda Dakar rider, 11 time SCORE Baja 1000 champion.
Bike – #29 Kurt Caselli – Factory Redbull KTM rider out of Palmdale California, taking the place of previous Dakar champion Marc Coma who was unable to take the start of the 2013 Dakar due to an injury.
Bike – #186 Kevin Muggleton – Privateer/Father/Husband from Denver Colorado
Car – #315 Robby Gordon / Kellon Walch – NASCAR superstar, Desert racing champion, owner of Speed Energy Drink. Team Toyo/Team Hummer.
Car – Co-rider #423 Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Zambon – Zambon was a bomb technician in the United States Marine Corps while on his third tour in Afghanistan serving his country (USA) a bomb went off amputating both of his legs. Mark is co-riding in a QT Wildcat.
Each car/truck team is allowed one driver and one co-rider while each bike team is allowed one rider for the entire rally. There are no driver changes, no navigator changes, there are no pit stops and there is no outside help. If a team cannot for whatever reasons adhere to these conditions, they are out of the race immediately.
Whether you know these people who represent the United States or not, they are representing you. You don’t have to like Robby Gordon or be faster than Kevin Muggleton, you don’t have to understand the rules of the Dakar, drink the same energy drink or even own an off-road race car. As an off-road racer or race fan, you have one obligation: stand behind those who are representing YOUR country and YOUR sport.
To team USA: We wish you luck, we shall all stand behind you and with you in the ultimate test of physical and mental strength. May you all pave the way for future generations of Dakar hopefuls and represent the United States in a way that will make us all proud to call ourselves off roaders. Best of luck boys, see you in Santiago Chile!
Words by Adam “Gunnslinger” Gunn