4 rallies in 4 months with the last event being an FIM world championship event - sounds simple enough right! The reality is far from easy as I was to find out.
Trying to juggle normal life with rallying is at best challenging and always frustrating. On a budget you have to ride what you have, do your own bike builds, maintenance, and basically beg, borrow, and steal to get to the next event. It's a time when you find out who you're real friends are as they give you their time knowing you can not return the favour. Every evening is spent in the garage working on the bike or on the computer trying to organise flights, transfers, race insurance, fill in registration forms, source parts/spares, etc, etc.
After a rally you're bike and gear arrives quite sometime after you've arrived home and it leaves again well before you fly out leaving little time to do what's needed. You're riding gear needs washing, you're rally box needs replenishing (everything in there will be covered in sand), the bike washed (1 day wasted there), air filters cleaned/re-oiled, tyres/mousses changed, bike maintenance done, camping gear aired, and then the bike altered/modified to suit the needs of the next event. This includes fuel capacity alterations, changes in navigation equipment, wiring, full fairing or rally lite kit, alterations to personal safety/medical kit, etc, etc, etc.
Also during this time you need to physically recover and then get back into you're training regime as soon as possible. You have another race to attend after all! This is when the training done during the winter months comes into play. I'm not naturally athletic and have to put in the hours but it's a must. During a rally you hurt (that goes without saying) but after it's how quickly you can recover. For some riders it takes a long time, for the likes of Coma and co they only get 1 week off after the Dakar! I've also had to sort my FIM licence (nightmare organising the medical tests/total pleasure dealing with the ACU), write/print/send my Dakar presentation, build a web site, design race gear/merchandise, find sponsorship, constantly update the social media sites, etc, etc. All this means that time is not on you're side and it unfortunately becomes the norm to still be doing work on the bike 10 minutes before your start time. This then leeds to the inevitable mechanical failures during an event. People have said I've had a bad run of luck but realistically it's a failure on my part to find time. It's easy to say I could of done better if this and that didn't happen but it's rallying and very few riders have a problem free event. It's all part of the experience! In the Tuareg the clutch plates wore out, and there was a fuelling problem. In the Libya bad fuel caused injector failure, tank leaked, and the clutch lever did nothing. During the Hellas the motor was woefully lacking power, exhaust fell off, and the steering head bearing shot. Finally no working clutch again, and the motor died on me in the Sardegna Rally after only 2 specials and a prologue! I now have 4 months until my next rally so plenty of time...... or is there?
As for the Dakar - my registration is in and now I must wait. I genuinely don't know if I'll get in. There are deals with sponsors and a brand new bike waiting for me. I will be using tried and trusted rally parts making the bike light and strong but its all in limbo until I receive the reply from ASO. I'm happy with my riding, and have more days planned with James West in Dubai to improve my dune/sand riding. I need to be smoother and quicker. My biggest issue is the heat. In all 3 of the last rallies I have constantly found myself needing more water! Lastly, I have no problems with a week in the saddle but the 2nd needs work. I have now 6 months to correct this.