BMW X3, X5 and F650 GS Dakar motorbikes are set to play a starring role in the 2006 Dakar Rally when 750 participants set off on 31 December, 2005, from Lisbon, Portugal, to race to Senegal.
Now in its 28th year, the Dakar Rally is widely regarded as one of the most physically and emotionally demanding motor sport events known to man with around half the starters not making the finish. BMW (UK) Ltd is supporting the efforts of the Race to Dakar team headed by Charley Boorman, star of the Long Way Round television series. Boorman will be attempting to complete the rally on a BMW F650 GS Dakar bike. BMW Off-Road Skills instructor and six-times Dakar competitor Simon Pavey and fellow rider Matt Hall will accompany Boorman in his quest, with the entire trip being filmed for a new television series.
Providing the backbone of the Race to Dakar team is a specially prepared BMW X5. The 218hp BMW X5 3.0d Sport has proved to be one of the most popular and reliable premium Sports Utility Vehicles currently on sale. Its unique xDrive four-wheel drive system, a set-up that provides near instantaneous power delivery between front and rear wheels depending on grip, should equip it well for the rigours of Africa. For the Dakar Rally, rally-raid specialists from UK-based Scorpion Racing have fitted the vehicle with a host of safety equipment such as a roll cage and fire extinguishers, long-range fuel tanks and under body protection to safeguard against mechanical damage. The support vehicle will be driven by a team led by Russ Malkin, producer of the Long Way Round and Race to Dakar sagas.
Boorman, Pavey and Hall will be part of a 22 motorbike and car assault on the Dakar Rally by BMW-powered machinery. A factory supported team run by X-raid GmbH based in Trebur, Germany, will also be contesting the rally in three BMW X3’s and an X5. All four vehicles will be powered by a modified version of the twin-turbo 3.0d engine that debuted in the BMW 535d in December, 2004.
The trio will race through Portugal and Spain before moving on to tackle the more extreme terrain of Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea before arriving 15 days later in Senegal. During the race competitors only have use of a road book for navigational purposes, which is only given to them at the start of each day. Unlike car or truck competitors with co-drivers, motorcyclists are completely dependent on the handlebar-mounted road book to find their way to the next destination. One wrong turn can spell disaster. Riders can end up lost in the desert with just themselves, their bike and one day’s worth of food rations to get by.
As part of his Dakar Rally preparations, Boorman has competed in several races in the UK, including various club races, a round of the British Enduro Championship and even lined up with world championship riders in the UK round of the World Enduro Championship. He has also attended BMW’s Great African GS Challenge in South Africa and spent numerous days training at BMW’s Off-Road Skills centre in Wales to build up his stamina.Published 24 December 2005