That great rally raid through the Western Sahara, travelling across several African and European countries before finally reaching the capital of one. That was the thrill for me. Going through several countries in the span of a day, trying to beat the others in your class to that great city by the African coast. Unfortunately, the race in 2008 would be my last.
I raced in Dakar ever since the first one. They once called me “The King of the Sands” since I got so many victories under my belt. And to be fair, I couldn’t have done it without my co-driver. Me and him go way back; ever since my first race actually. I may not have won that race (since I had too much sand in my radiator) but we both knew that we were going to be a dream team.
Of course I bounced back from that loss and won several victories and an equal amount of podiums. And when that race went underway I put on my usual focus and determination and hauled it across those sands. And I do believe I made it about halfway through the race when they told me that the race was cancelled due to terrorists in the area. Now keep in mind we were in the heart of Mauritania by this point so I had no choice but to keep going.
“We can’t stop now, it’s 500 miles near any source of water even!” my co-driver replied back, me closing in rapidly on some grandstands. Little did I know, all those people and my career would go up in a pile of smoke. And when they did, I was sure as hell caught in the crossfire.
Whoever rigged that explosion wanted to get the unlucky sonuvabitch driving past too, because that bomb was pretty powerful. Powerful enough to get all my wheels off the ground and send me rolling off the dune some feet. It was a whole minute before the rolling stopped and the panic started. I was thinking a lot of things, like “Where’s my co-driver” and “How am I gonna call for help”? But I had a lot more thinking time on my hands since it was 10 minutes before the helicopter came down to my location.
During that time I had to deal with the heat and whatever terrorist group could be hunkered down nearby, waiting to strike. I was subsisting myself on fear and the last bottle of water before my supposed arrival at the rest area the mile ahead. Did I walk that mile for help? Hell no! It was about 95F at the time, and I was not taking a hike for that long in that heat. So I just sat there and prayed that the heli came fast enough for my aid.
I was just about to give up when I heard it coming and that bird stir up the grains. As I looked back, hopping aboard the bird, I saw my co-driver. That question of where he was was finally answered: on the dash, shrapnel sticking out of his helmet and below all that was a dark red. At least he died quickly.
I retired not only from the race, but from the entirety of that world altogether. I may not forget what happened to my navigator, but I will say that that year, and that race, ain’t gonna go down pretty in the history books. And I’m even more glad those terrorists can’t find me and finish the job. I often think about what happened if I didn’t get into that race, or if I were in the navigator’s seat. I just push it back further, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get that sight of my navigator out of my head.