The 2015 Dakar is upon us…
While American entrants have always been few and far between in the world’s most prestigious offroad race the ’15 edition is especially lacking in riders and drivers flying the red, white, and blue. While Tony Gera was able to win a free entry into the event via his 2014 SCORE Desert Racing performance, it is only SoCal resident Antonio Narino who will be present on a bike from the US in this year’s event (as rider #164).
Originally from Columbia, Narino moved to the United States where he enrolled at Duke University to study business, a background that would result in his employment with Hunter Industries (a major irrigation company). Like many in our world though, Narino had his priorities “straight” and one of the first things he bought upon arriving in America was a motorcycle in order to continue the passion he had picked up racing numerous enduros in his home country.
This passion (Narino says he has never considered himself a real racer) lead him to build up his Rally-Raid and ADV resume over the past decade. His travels (many solo) included two wheeled trips through Cambodia, Patagonia, Bolivia and Alaska. On the racing side Narino ran in events such as the ’07 Por Las Pampas Rally, ’10 Rally dos Sertoes, and the ’07 Baja 500 and Vegas to Reno races as well as recent NORRA Mexican 1000 events and ’14 Baja Rally. With this history as well as various desert training sessions including a visit to Morocco this past year and trips in both ’09 and ’12 to follow along with the traveling circus that is the Dakar, Narino is taking his first shot at entering the pinnacle of offroad racing this year.
While Antonio’s “nothing worth doing is ever easy” attitude is a major asset, as is his long term mountain biking and weight training regimen, he is participating in the ’15 Dakar as a Marathon/Malle-Moto entry. This “pure” type of class allows no engine changes during the event (per Antonio the ASO reserves 20 spots per year for the Malle-Moto entrants for which you have to apply and be accepted into) and requires an individual to perform all their own maintenance and service—no crew, no mechanic, no assistance of any kind (not even to cook your food). For the “privilege” of running this class the ASO provides you a “trunk” in which you have to store all your gear, spares, tools and equipment and will transport it to each bivouac. In order to maintain absolute focus on the task at hand, Antonio has left all family and friends at home so as to eliminate any distractions. Having seen racers at prior events bring their wives along and watched the drain on attention that this can bring, he felt his focus needed to be maintained on the race.
As of this writing, Antonio will have already arrived in Buenos Aires and unloaded his bike and be proceeding through scrutineering where each of the never ending checks administered by the ASO will be finished with a stamp, he has already completed a dream. Just arriving at the start is a major accomplishment for any racer while an actual finish in the event is near unthinkable.
Having met and picked the brains of fellow American riders such as Andy Grider, Jonah Street, Kurt Caselli and Kellon Walch, Antonio believes he has picked up a few strategies that may get him to the finish. In seeing the heights that the course reaches one might think that power loss might become an issue though Antonio has seen that the fuel injected nature of his bike largely mitigates that concern. Communication issues can also present a problem with the ASO speaking all French, the spectators and many entrants speaking Spanish and practically everyone else attempting to get by on butchered English. Fortunately Antonio speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese easing his communication with nearly everyone present. Navigation should also be something Antonio has buttoned up having participated in and conducted training with Dave Peckham and Rally Management Services for a number of Dakar competitors who sought to perfect their navigation arts.
The real key to his success Antonio believes is to just keep moving. Keeping up a minimum pace despite everything the Dakar will throw at him he knows will be a brutal proposition. Breakdowns and errors are bound to happen, its dealing with them in an efficient manner that will keep him in the event.
Hopefully keeping the repairs to a minimum will be a combination of both Narino’s skills and the quality inherent in his chosen bike. The 2013 Husqvarna 449 he will be riding will not be his own. While he has been a long time rider of Husqvarnas, the logistics, expense and hassle of shipping and prepping his own bike from SoCal was actually more of a pain than his alternative plan. Buying a fully Dakar prepped (Sentinal system with light and noise notification, navigation tower, etc.), yet very light and nimble (comparatively) Husqvarna 449 in Portugal and having it shipped to Buenos Aires along with the vast majority of other Dakar racers drastically simplified the process.
While most of us won’t be part of the millions following the 2015 Dakar in person, Antonio should be able to bring back some his experiences, lessons, tips, and stories for release either here or another publication TBD.