Rally Raid Mexico in Dakar on Yamaha

2 replies to this topic
  • Truth Teller

Posted January 05, 2007 - 12:44 PM


Two Yamaha riders and a crew in a Ford F350 are entered in Dakar 2007 as Team Rally Raid Mexico. They have a blog (http://www.rallyraidmex.com/, but it doesn't display correctly, so I've pasted their reports here for easier reading. For those who haven't been to Dakar, these guys are experiencing the real Dakar, and the race hasn't even started. This kind of stuff happens to everyone! If you only read part of this, read the last two segments. Yikes!

The full list of 20 or so North Americans in Dakar this year, with links to their respective websites is here:

Dakar 2007 starts tomorrow (Saturday), and there will be daily TV coverage on VS (Versus, formerly OLN).

[COLOR="Blue"]Rally Raid Mexico reports:[/COLOR]
19 DAYS and counting……
Posted on October 11th, 2006

Rally Raid Mexico is in the final 19 days. The race equipment needs to be loaded onto a container for delivery to Lisbon. With no possible time extensions the date is certain. The team’s equipment must leave Cabo San Lucas on October 28th. The team will travel 1000 miles up the Baja penisula to Los Angeles. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, the equipment will be loaded into a 40 foot container and shipped to Lisbon, Portugal.

With 19 days left there is a great deal of preparation that needs to be completed. The ASO (the race organization) signal equipment needs to be mounted onto the bikes. This equipment requires three seperate antennas that will be mounted in the rear of the bikes. Additionally, the lighting system is only partially complete. The specialy made 100 watt stators are installed but, the special headlamps are on backorder. With promises of delivery 8 days before departure the team is looking for a “Plan B” on the headlamps.

The tire sponsor has not delivered the required 60 tires needed. These tires need to be loaded onto the chase truck. If the tires donot arrive in time a “Plan B” will be needed for tires.

The new fuse blocks and switches have been mounted to the bike fairings however, they have not been tested. Time needs to be scheduled to stress test the new electrical parts. Additionally, the team manager wants the team to have one more day and night of practice in Los Barriles. This practice is needed to test out the modifications made after the team’s Death Valley Rally practice two weeks ago.

The team members have had all their required shots and the flight reservations have been made. As the days tick off the pressure mounts. The last thing the team wants to do is send the equipment to Lisbon when it is not race ready. If you have a mechanical problem in Lisbon there is little hope of finding the part you need.

19 days and counting!
Rally Raid Mexico

12 days and counting……
Posted on October 16th, 2006

The days continue to tick off for “Rally Raid Mexico”. The last 72 hours were spent testing the race bikes new Acerbis long range gas tanks and packing the chase vehicle.

The new gas tanks were mounted and plumbed last week. The bikes now have a 8 gallon capacity. This will provide the range neccesary to beat the Sahara Desert. The bikes needed to be tested under full fuel load. Our two team riders, Sunny Irvine and Terry Curtis, and our Chief Fabricator, Lorenzo Ubaldi, put the bikes to the test this Sunday. With 8 gallons of fuel on board the bikes were stress tested in the Baja desert. The rider reports came back positive. No suspension changes are need.

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The bikes will now go back into the shop and new engines will be installed. The engines that were used for testing will be rebuilt by team manager Ed Coyle. These rebuilt engines will become the backup engines for the Dakar Rally.

While the riders were out in the desert testing the other team members were in the shop packing the Ford 350 chase vehicle. The back up bikes were dismantled and the parts packed into the chase truck. Additionally, the riders “kit box” was created. The “kit box” is provided to the riders by the race organization “ASO”. The riders can pack what ever they want into this box. The box is then carried on the race organization’s aircraft from camp to camp. Rally Raid Mexico’s kit boxes will carry all the parts most commonly damaged in a race. This includes brake levers, brake rotors, handle bars, sprockets, chains, tires, wheels, forks, electronics…etc.

The team is still waiting for the headlamps and ballast from its supplier “Electrosport”. Electrosport promises to have the needed items delivered by October 20th. Additionally, the 60 tires from sponsor Michelin have not arrived. With 12 days to departure time is tight.

The team’s shipper…LBX Logistics has moved the departure date up one day. The chase truck and bikes need to be in L.A. on November 1, at 12:00 P.M. The final check lists are being made. Time is very short!

Rally Raid Mexico
Team Yamaha

“Rally Raid Mexico” Blessed by Saint Tiempo
Posted on October 25th, 2006

With time running out, “Saint Tiempo” blessed “Rally Raid Mexico”. The Saint granted 10 more days of preperation before the team must deliver its equipment to L.A. The Saint worked this miracle through the shipping agency “LBX Logistics”. The shipping company discovered a different route to Lisbon, Portugal. This new route will give the team 10 more days to sort out the race bikes and chase truck. After this miracle several members of the team are considering conversion to another faith.

The team sponsors now have additional time to deliver critical parts. The team manager, Ed Coyle is waiting for the head light and upgraded stators from “Electrosport” and the tires from “Michelin“. Final work has been completed on the Ford 350 chase truck. It is packed and ready to go!

The team visas are being handled by our French contact, Jorge. He graciously agreed to handle our visa needs after the team ran into a problem with our U.S. visa agency. The U.S. agency does not handle people with Mexican passports! It is said that the toughest part of the DAKAR RALLY is getting there. Hopefully, Jorge will solve this problem.

The last item on the list is the team’s “Carnet”. If you have watched “Long Way Round” you already know that the lack of a proper “Carnet” can be a huge problem. The “Carnet” allows you to take your equipment from one country to the next with little hassle. The “Carnet” states that you will not sell the equipment while you are passing through the country. Each nut, bolt, part and tire needs to be listed on the “Carnet”. A big inventory list for Rally Raid Mexico which is supporting two race bikes. The team is carrying the equivalent of three entire bikes as spare parts!

13 days and counting! Thank you Saint Tiempo!
Rally Raid Mexico


Its time to go! The team spends the last moments of a Saturday Packing the Ford F350 Dakar Mobile with our bikes, equipment and supplies before Ron McRae and Ed Coyle, our camp concierge/driver (Def. He who does whatever is needed) and fearless leader respectively, drive the gear a marathon 1000 miles. This drive will help them get to know each other even better. ETA in LA is 26 hours. ETA for the truck in Lisbon is Dec 12th

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Visas…its the details!

The bikes, spares and chase truck on on their way to Lisbon. Sealed up in a 40 container we expect to receive the equipment in Lisbon on December 21st. Plenty of time for last minute changes and tuning.
The team takes a collective sigh of relief. There was a multitude of last minute details that needed to be addressed. All were attended to with success. Now we wait……except one last detail!

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During the race the team will travel through six countries. Several of these countries will require visas to allow the team members to enter and exit. During our research into visas we discover that different countries have different relationships with each other. Depending on the type of passport you carry will determine what type of visa you will require.
Our team is comprised of six members. Five of the members travel on Mexican passports and one team member travels with a American passport. Mexico has not established reciprocal relationships with several of the countries. The lack of this relationship means the formal visas will be required.
Due to the complexity of visa creation it is necessary to retain the services of someone who knows how the process works. The team finds a company in the United States to do the leg work. All is well………except the company does not process Mexican passports. A frantic call to an associate in France and a promise is given to handle the needed visas however, the passports need to go to Italy. The team gathers the passports and DHLs the documents to Italy. The promise has been made to have the passports with visas returned to Baja by December 1st. Plenty of time before the teams departure to Lisbon on the 27th. This is more our hope than an explicit promise from our gratious friend in Italy who has offered to help us get our visas (Jorge, thank you again for all your help).
A call from Italy states that one of the passports does not have the required five blank pages! A new passport must be created and rushed to Italy. Plans are made to possibly leave behind one team member….his passport may not arrive in time.
December 1st arrives and no passports! Where are they? After many frantic telephone calls and e-mails it is discovered that our team´s passports were combined with an Italian team`s passports to save money. The process did not start until December 15. There are seven days left before the team departs…..the team will not be traveling without passports.
After many more telephone calls a plan is hatched. Three members of the team will have their passports sent to a address in Spain. This will eliminate the risk of the passports not making the deadline for departure for these three members. The other two members will wait for their passports to arrive in Baja. These members are told that their passsports may arrive the same day of their departure. This is cutting the timing very close. (as it turned out the passports arrived 5 days earlier than needed).
The problem now is what are the three team members, whose passports are in Spain, going to use to leave Mexico and enter Spain? A plan is hatched. New passports are requested and issued by the local authorities. Problem solved!
It is said that the hardest part of the DAKAR RALLY is getting there. This is proving to be very true!!
Watch for Rally Raid Mexico on ESPN beginning January 10.

The Saga Continues…

As I write this post I’m sitting in Lisbon, along with the rest of the team, waiting for good news from ABX Logistics, the company that helped us ship our equipment from LA to Lisbon. The vessel that has our gear hostage is (hopefully) currently docking in the port of Lisbon. It was originally to arrive on Dec the 12th, then this was revised to the 28th. On the evening of the 27th, as Lety, Ed, Leslie (my girlfriend along to see us off in Lisbon) and I were having dinner with some relatives in La Coruna, Spain (Spanish Brewers of Estrella de Galicia, the best beer on earth) we get an email from our logistics account executive on Ed’s blackberry.

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Those hateful little things are both a blessing and a curse. In this case a curse. The boat is delayed 4 more days and is expected to arrive on the 1st in Lisbon.

This is very bad news.

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The new timeframe leaves very little time for error. The boat needs to clear customs and we still need to re-assemble the bikes (fairings and front end were broken down to fit into the truck) and finish the lighting kit installation since our lighting guys left us standing at the alter in November when the bikes were about to be shipped. Although there are other teams in our same position, their investment, time and hopes are not nearly as pointed as our own.

On our drive to Lisbon on the 28th speculation is rampant in our rental car. As we dodge other tiny little European cars moving at over 160kph in the process of providing moving chicanes for their emusement, we wonder what will happen when we arrive in Lisbon.

Sunny (accompanied by his mom Leonique), Terry and Ron (aka Quadman) are all inbound to arrive at different times on the 29th and we needed to meet with ABX Logistics prior to their arrival to fully understand what we are being faced with.

When we meet with ABX they assure us they are fast tracking the customs paperwork to ensure that our container is pre-cleared through customs. They assure us barring no natural disasters the boat will dock on the 1st and be cleared on the 2nd.

We have no control over what is going on. The frustration incenses everyone to varying degrees and we begin to face the strain of the Dakar. All who participate know the race begins months before the starting date…We are living it.

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Although we wonder around Lisbon trying to enjoy the forced down time we are all burdened with the unknown location of our boat and the uncertainty of even starting the race. New Years is bittersweet, and rather than the usual revelry taking us into the early dawn of the first day of the year everyone’s somber mood takes us home to awaken the next day in the hopes of being able to contact ABX and get an update.

Stay tuned to for more as the day progresses we will know when bikes are to arrive in Lisbon and how much time we really have to prepare.


January 3rd…From one Challenge to the Next.

The equipment did not come through on the 2nd, although we spoke to ABX Logistics regularly through the day the boat carrying our container apparently was very far back in the cue to unload our containers and as such did not get fully unloaded until it was late in the day. Too late to begin to clear customs. We spent the day in nearby Sintra, the summer palace of the old Portuguese royalty.

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We had an uneasy sleep.

As this is written our future is brighter but still uncertain. Late last night, about 10pm on the 3rd, we received our equipment (2 Yamaha WR450’s packed in our Ford F350) after an entire day of waiting, brief updates and a taste of Portuguese Customs. Today’s challenge is weather we will be able to make our tech and administrative inspection time slot given that the Yamahas are require some work and the Ford requires some exploring (we need to locate our safety equipment, our gear etc).

We meet up with Team SoCal (Desmon and wife July, Mark -pictured below with Joaquim from ABX Logistics-, Joe mechanic and riders Mike Kay and Brian Schmeckle) as they were, literally, in the same boat as we were with their truck also in a container, a shipmate to ours. Some of their team we know from Baja 500 and 1000 races, some are new faces. We joke and commiserate about our trials, its our novice year as actual competitors although Desmond has had extensive first and second hand experience and we wish we had met him personally sooner as he we could have made each other’s life easier by teaming up.

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In the process of waiting we find a few things out: 1)There is a roomer that assistance (which is what the support teams are called) will be away from the riders for 3 nights. This would mean over 1500 kilometers on one set of tires which is nearly impossible even as a leisure ride. 2)We need some type of insurance (green card) that we think we might not have 3) The long on-road sections in the first few days might require some parts to be changed out of the bikes. The race has Liaisons and Specials. The first are portages from the bivouac (which is what the area where we camp, eat and park at the end of each day) and the actual race course, the second are the actual race sections that are timed.It gets to be 4pm, our containers have been waiting for customs to inspect them since 2pm. The official assigned to us has gone missing or found better options. We are about to resign ourselves to getting our gear the next day and really being in a hurry when Joaquim Sesmarias, our ABX contact announces he is going to the port to raise some hell. We like his tone, finally lets go see what kind of trouble we can get into. Desmond and I ride with him to the port. On the way he dials his mobile to contact his customs guy repeatedly. Each conversation is getting more and more heated. The profanity, which even we can understand, begins to flow. He’s speaking like a sailor into the phone, then when he hangs up the four letter words flow in English, Spanish and Portuguese. We are not encouraged but we laugh and joke nervously about the similarities between Portuguese and Mexican red tape.

We pull into the port at 445, the offices are empty. In some countries I’ve been to this would mean either you will definitely get things done, or you are stuck till the following day. We meet the customs agent supervisor who says there is a problem with the VIN on our Ford F350. His official saw an H instead of a W. When they ask us where the VIN is we feel better, like maybe they looked at the wrong number. They confirm they looked up on the dash through the glass. Our hearts sink. True or not, this could mean we are not getting out today.

We all march over for a visual inspection. I pray the supervisor’s eye sight is good (this would not be the last time I utter this prayer in the day to come). The VIN is right. The customs supervisor says “I’ll let you slide this time” which is as close as we’ll get to an admission of an error but works for us. They go over to try to open Team SoCal’s container and there is a lot of Portuguese, they make Desmond open the truck. More Portuguese. Everyone walks out and Joaquim (ABX Logistics) says to Desmond (with a perfect poker face) ‘your truck is not getting out today’. It was a joke but Desmond nearly faints as he does not catch the joke. His face is ashen and the reactor core begins to build until I say ‘you know he is joking right?’. Desmond looks at Joaquim and color floods back into his face. Nuclear meltdown avoided. We clear customs and about 3 hours later clear the port and get back to ABX’s warehouse to unpack our vehicles from their iron tombs. Thank you Joaqim! You kept us in suspense but came through! Thank you Hemi and ABX Logistics.

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We end the day euphoric. We have gear! Now we need to know if we will make our Scruteniering (Tech Inspection and Aministrative Inspection) time the next day. Although ASO sports representatives Derin Skilton and Florian have been very supportive and repeatedly told us we can move our times no one wants to test this out.

January 4th, 2007 … The Goat Show

Before we begin a breif story. There is a tight trail on the Norther Baja referenced as the Goat Trail. In previousl years, when it gets down to the wire and everyone begins to dash around wildliy like a goat with ADD on a tight trail we say ‘The Goat Show’ has begun….today is a full fledged goat show on redbull awaits!

We begin the day before the sun is even visible with the goal of accomplishing the modifications on the motorcycles and the truck by 1230pm to rush to Tech Inspection and make our 1:45pm Scruteniering (Tech Inspection and Administrative Inspection). Scruteniering involves checking your vehicle and team members to ensure everyone has their paperwork (passports and carnets, drivers licenses, titles to vehicles), appropriate gear, installation of the Dakar Rally’s proprietary equipment (GPS, Iritrack, E Track, Sentinel, radios, E-Perb etc), wiring, insurance, radios, petrol, tolls etc. Its like an organized scavenger hunt where the racers and their assistance teams go from station to station ensuring they have the correct elements to participate all led by a little folio that has to be stamped at each station. But I’m getting ahead of myself…we still have to get there.

Little things like Parking become an impediment to beginning work. We need a place to park a Ford F350 modified truck, 2 Yamaha motorcycles, about 1 ton of gear, spares, Michelin and Maxxis Tires (by far our most cumbersome and most numbered spare as the Yamahas chew through tires off road) and every possible odd and end we could think to bring. Our clutter is clearly a sign of not knowing exactly what to expect. We try in vain to get the Marriot hotel to give us space inside their parking area until Eliane Barradas, a fellow Mexican from Veracruz and the head of their groups division, comes to our rescue, sadly too late as we’d already commandeered a sidewalk and half of what we thought was a little side street (we later realized it was a major street with a school nearby making for some fun car dodging…we are good at this, we practice at the border in Tijuana).

The bikes come out (along with a mountain of Michellin and Maxxis Tires), Terry, Ed, Ron and Sunny busy themselves with the light mounting, the instrument tower assembly and the fairing and seat installation.

Weve taken over the street, Work on first Bike:
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The consensus is that the long road sections will be easier on the engine if we raise our gearing on the sprockets from a 15/48 to a 15/46 by replacing the rear sprocket. This requires the chain is shortened. I help with this and with Truck installation as Lety (my mom) tidies the cabin and Leslie and Leonique bring us breakfast and help carrying and organizing the different elements.

Changing Rear Sprocket, Final Packing Truck:

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Its 1145am and we still have one Yamaha WR450 to install lighting on but with the little lessons learned on the first one we may be able to make it. We realize Terry and Sunny;s trip meters require some batteries in order not to have to be reset each day (little things like this can kill riders in the rally and become major issues for us at prep). Leslie volunteers to try to find them and succeeds. At 12:45pm we are ready to start the bikes and test the lights. The bikes start, the lights work. At 1:15pm we leave the hotel and follow a cab to a gas station (we need to have the bikes in perfect condition for Scruteniering and also once they go through this inspection they are locked up until the start of the race so no more time to gas them up or do anything) and then to Scruteniering.

Once we find the actual entrance for vehicles Sunny and Terry disappear into their check while Ron, Lety, Ed and I begin the truck inspection.

The riders begin their administrative check in full gear (Aerostich jackets, boots and all, only the newbies are in gear..yes its our first Dakar as racers)as we realize the Ford is missing some cables for the e-track (which is like an OnStar system for the assistance vehicles) and we need to run a power lead to its mount. We begin to remedy this then realize we don’t have the radio, GPS or E Track yet. We run to Administrative Check where these pieces reside. Sunny and Terry are ahead of us and we see each other only long enough to exchange paperwork and intelligence on what order to do the stations in (depending on which lines are the longest as there is no particular order). We all complete this and run back outside. We are given 45 minutes from the time we complete the Admin Inspection to the time we have to go into Tech Inspection. The riders now need to install their GPS, Iritrack (which is their version of an E-Track and works as a form of OnStar), E-Perb (a last measure of redundancy if you are in trouble this signals ASO Sports you need help and when used it gets you air lifted out in a helicopter and also disqualifies you), and Centinel (which is like a proximity detector that helps tell a vehicles on the far side of a rise or around a corner if you’ve had an accident or are near in an attempt to provide a measure of safety to the racers in dust and situations of low visibility). Sunny and Terry realize their wiring harnesses require modification about the same time we realize there is a longer antenna (yet another cable) missing from our E-Track. Sunny, Terry and Ed work on the bikes as I work on running wires in the cab. Terry finishes ahead of Sunny who’s GPS was faulty and wiring harness requires greater modification and heads for Tech Inspection. We are all late to Tech as its been nearly 75 minutes (way over our 45 minute allowance) since we cleared Admin Inspection. Each 10 minutes, we’ve heard is $100E…ouch!

Sunny rewires bike, ASO official, installing new GPS:

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We complete these with about 90 minutes of time delay run to Tech and find out ASO seems to not be overly concerned, we are ok on time.

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Tech Inspection Jan 2nd Tech Inspection Jan 4th

As Terry runs through the gauntlet of Tech Inspection he is asked to show his VIN and his title. VIN is missing. This is a deal killer. He is 3 meters from the end of Tech, We’ve been here for nearly 6 hours. This is the culmination of months of work and sacrifices. The weld on his instrument tree mount (where his GPS, IriTrack, etc are mounted) must have obliterated his VIN. The paint used to cover the exposed metal after the weld was done is too thick to even see traces of numbers. Ed assures everyone he, personally, did this weld in order to ensure the VIN was intact. The organizers will not let Terry continue unless we can find a VIN. Ed tells me to begin to scrape paint with a knife so I begin to frantically dig at the paint to find a VIN or any trace of one. I get to bare metal and nothing. Terry begins to get quiet and to back up, presumably so that when he explodes he does not kill anyone. He is about to go into nuclear meltdown. Ed asks me to use some fuel to rub at the metal to try to bring any etchings up on it. As I rub gasoline on the metal the faintest trace of the VIN begins to appear but unless you have some imagination there is NO WAY an inspector can even come close to comparing what is there with the titles. I realize that the numbers were, in fact there, the realization dawns that I may have scraped them away wile I was digging at the paint. Terry is going to kill us all and start by carving me up. We call the inspectors over and (once again as with the Customs guys) I pray whoever comes over has good eye sight and (now in this case) some imagination. She comes over, I rub gas on it again, she shakes her head. I’m going to throw up and cry at the same time. She speaks in French (ASO sports, the organizer is based in France) to her colleague, she looks at us, shakes her head again…then the angles speak to her and she shrugs and she says ‘ok’. Terry goes over to her and hugs her and says thank you all the time laughing a nervous laughter that says ‘please don’t change your mind’.

Terry was just told he is ok to race.

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From this point on we run into no more major problems, about another 2 hours go by and we finally make it out of Tech. Its now about 9pm, we’ve eaten nothing since the breakfast Leonique and Leslie brought us but a few pastries and been on our feet since before dawn. We are elated. This now means we can begin the race.

Its widely said that 50% of the challenge is getting to the starting line. I now understand this with more perspective.

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Assitance FORD F350:
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[COLOR="DarkOrange"]Going where no Harley has gone before[/COLOR]

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  • taksx

Posted January 05, 2007 - 12:48 PM


that's so awesome, thanks for the post:thumbsup: :lol:

  • FirstMan

Posted January 08, 2007 - 11:03 AM


Holy cow that was a rough experince. I hope they are able to finish the race.


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