“Dakar?” the Indian immigration official quizzed. The next 10 minutes was a lesson. A lesson that I imparted to the clueless official – that the Dakar Rally was the toughest motorsport event in the world. Tougher even than the fabled Isle of Man TT perhaps, for the Dakar tests man, machine and everyone (or thing) involved in the event. The logistics of hosting an event across geographical and international boundaries, mostly in locations without the most basic of infrastructure is a daunting challenge that the organisers live up to year after year after year. In that sense therefore the Dakar Rally is the ultimate motorsport challenge. It is, in fact, the very centre of the world of motorsport.
Boarding KLM flight KL 878, the excitement was palpable. And despite the incredibly long journey time – Mumbai to Amsterdam and then on to Lima, Peru, none of the excitement fizzled out. Quite the opposite in fact. As the Dutch coastline faded away and we set course for the Peruvian coastline some nine and a half thousand miles away, there was this sense of the surreal.
For me, this was a trip of many firsts – the first Atlantic crossing, the first Equator crossing, the first trip to South America, my very first time in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s peak summer right now. But honestly, these only scratched the surface. Only one thing stood out. That I was headed to the Dakar Rally. I would in the next 24 hours get to see riders like C S Santosh, J-Rod, Aravind K P and the rest in action. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.