Dakar isn’t the kind of race you want to take on with a less-than-perfect motorcycle, but in 1985 Belgian rider Gaston Rahier managed to win on a broke-as-shit BMW GS. Rahier had already won the Dakar in 1984 and was confident that his much-improved 1985 ride would help him repeat. But then in a pre-race media appearance he put a foot wrong and wadded the bike up in a huge crash.
BMW and the HPN team that built the bike didn’t have a spare chassis, so they had to cobble the wrecked one back together as best they could. As documented in the video below, it would leave two tire tracks in the sand instead of one. Which is a polite way of saying that it was fucked. Bad.
Rahier’s teammates Eddie Hau and Raymond Loizeaux retired early in the running, leaving Gaston as BMW’s lone bullet left in a gun with a crooked barrel. With the long desert rally lasting several weeks, Rahier’s BMW somehow managed to limp into bivvy every night. And every night, Rahier’s BMW required extensive repair.
But somehow the man who couldn’t even put his feet on the ground to steady himself on an immensely unsteady motorcycle managed to beat the rest of the competition to the finish line. He wrecked his bike before the race even began and still managed to come out on top. The guy and his broken bike are the stuff Dakar legends are made of.
And if you’re interested in this story, BMW turned it into a four-part documentary series which you can watch below. I know what I’ll be doing this evening.
This whole thing is utterly amazing. Running the Dakar is about as far from the world of two-wheels as it can get from the average everyday riding I do, and the thought of even trying to ride on a dog-tracking motorcycle on a dry Nevada day gives me chills. Much respect to Gaston. I’ll raise a couple glasses in his honor tonight.