BMW Motorrad UK’s Chief Off Road Skills instructor, Simon Pavey, is making final preparations to compete in his eighth Dakar Rally in a few week’s time in South America. The UK-based Australian, who has taught thousands of BMW GS owners how to ride off-road at the dedicated BMW training school in South Wales, will be competing for the first time on a rally bike based on the G450X.
Having begun his Dakar career back in 1998, Pavey has been drawn back to this ultimate test of man and machine seven times since — six of which have been on BMW rally bikes based on the F650GS and G650Xcountry. Having taught Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman to ride off-road in preparation for their “Long Way Round” global journey on GS bikes, Pavey also ended up being the star of the “Race to Dakar” television series after Boorman’s first Dakar attempt ended after just a few days due to injury, leaving Pavey to battle through alone to the finish.
This time though, Pavey is on his own and riding a 450cc BMW for the first time in the rally. Having spent many previous Dakar Rallies on reliable, but uncompetitive machinery, Pavey is delighted to finally have the kind of machine that will really give him the opportunity to compete with the hundreds of privateer riders in this toughest motorcycle race in the world.
A final shakedown test in Portugal last month allowed Pavey to put the finishing touches to the race bike, which successfully passed inspection in Le Havre in the final week of November. The bike is now crated up and on its way across the Atlantic Ocean to Buenos Aires, where the rally will start on New Years Day. For Pavey, the next few weeks give him a chance to make final preparations and work on his fitness before he too leaves for South America, on Christmas Day.
“It’s taken almost a year’s work to get to this stage, but I’m really looking forwards to getting out there on this new bike. Having competed in several African Dakars, I really enjoyed the South American rally last year and despite a couple of really tough days, the rest of the time was just brilliant. I’m really fortunate to have an association with BMW Motorrad and to have had the opportunity to ride in previous rallies on BMW machinery but there is something special about going on a competitive bike like this 450. It’s taken a while to build, like they always do, but it looks fantastic and is just great to ride, so it gives me confidence to know I’ll be going there on the best bike I’ve ever had.”
Riding a 450cc bike instead of the 650cc rally bikes he has previously used comes with its own challenges, as the high speeds, long distances involved and the many hours in the saddle will put a real strain on the smaller motor. Therefore, Pavey and his team have put many hours into problem solving and building a bike that can take the very real punishment the Dakar dishes out. A recent test in Portugal’s Algarve area has shown how much improvement and good feeling the specially-built rally bike has over the stock machine.
“The bike feels so good, it is much lighter than my bikes in the past and should make the deep sand much easier than it has been in previous years,” says Simon. “We did a lot of work on making the bike as comfortable and gentle on the body as possible, because if the bike is going to ‘beat you up,’ you will never be able to ride 10 or more hours a day for 14 days — it will destroy you.”
For 2011 Simon will be riding in the Malles Moto class (a halfway house between the Production/Super Production and the Marathon Class). It is similar to the Marathon class, with no mechanic or outside assistance allowed, but more parts can be changed.
“I am super excited about riding the Malles Moto class and I am really looking forward to the added adventure of being out there on my own. It’s a great class because it allows you to still race pretty hard, without having to worry too much about the bike. You can change most parts on the bike — including engines, wheels and so on — but you still have the challenge of doing all the work yourself. With no mechanic there is no rest, and you’re still trying pretty hard in the daytime too. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Rally enthusiasts can keep track of Simon’s progress on www.simonpavey.com and he’ll also be posting updates whenever possible on Twitter and Facebook. BMW fans can also keep a check on four other riders who have entered this year’s rally. Frans Verhoeven and David Fretigne will be racing the Speedbrain G450RR, while Pedro Bianchi Prata and Paulo Gonçalves will also be riding a G450X-based rally bike for the Equipa Bianchi Prata/Vodafone team. The race coverage will be aired on Versus is the US and Eurosport in Europe with the race starting on New Year’s Day 2011. See www.dakar.com for all the latest details.