Have you ever dreamt of competing in the famous Dakar Rally? Ever wondered what it would take logistically and cost-wise? After completing the Dakar Rally on several occasions in both Africa and South America (often with no team support!), Paul Round, founder of RallyRaid International, now builds bespoke rally cars and provides support for people wanting to compete in this demanding race. He spoke to us about the gruelling demands of the world’s toughest race and building Land Rover-inspired rally cars.
Back in 1977, Frenchman Thierry Sabine was hopelessly lost on his motorcycle in the arid Libyan Desert during a rally. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the beauty of his surroundings and the challenges of crossing this desert on a motorcycle appealed to Sabine. A year later, the Dakar Rally was born and became motorsport’s ultimate endurance race.
The nearly 10 000-km multi-stage race, described by the Vatican newspaper as “the bloody race of irresponsibility,” began in Paris and ended in Dakar, Senegal. Soon, the race caught the attention of automakers, sponsors and fans. It also became a platform for manufacturers to test new vehicles. Participants compete in four categories, including trucks, motorcycles, quads and cars.
Each year, more than 500 racers from 50 countries compete in this 14-stage race. Described as the “most dangerous race in the world”, 59 people have died either participating, watching as spectators or covering the event as journalists. The Dakar rally pits drivers not only against one another, but also against some of the most extreme terrain in the world.
In 2008, for the first time in the event’s 30-year history, the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to threats of terrorism. The event was moved to South America and crosses some of the most arduous terrain of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
The Story of Paul Round
Paul Round is a petrol-head through and through. Since a very young age, Paul and his mates made race tracks and modified and converted any engine they could get their hands on. However, Paul’s off-road experience was limited to bikes and scramblers only. But that didn’t stop him from achieving his goal of competing in the world’s toughest off-road challenge – the Dakar Rally.
The original concept for Paul’s company, RallyRaid International, was to help British competitors compete in foreign events, helping them navigate the pitfalls Paul knew all too well when he started out. Paul and his son Mark, who started the company in 1999, helped competitors with all the ‘unknowns’ and often unexpected factors that can spoil the fun and kill the budget (and spirit) of even the most determined competitor in the Dakar Rally….
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