The countdown has already started for the third Heroes Legend classic off-road rally that begins in France on 8 March. More than 150 competitors so far have entered this popular rally-raid that starts under the Eiffel Tower in Paris and follows a route to the Lac Rose in Dakar, via France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.
The event mainly follows the course of the legendary Paris Dakar Rally and is organised by three-times winner Hubert Auriol, who won what many consider to be the world’s toughest race in 1981 and 1983 on a factory BMW enduro. Among the competitors in this year’s Heroes Legend rally are several BMW riders, most of who are returning to the desert for more action after having their first taste of Africa at last year’s rally.
Dave Alexander finished in 22nd place on his first African rally last year and is returning to compete in the ’Classic’ category on the same modified 1994 R 80 GS. Dave works as an Aftersales Manger for BMW Motorrad UK and can’t wait to return to the starting line in Paris.
"I’m training hard at present with three to four nights a week spent down at the gym, but I really need to focus a bit more effort on getting the bike ready because it’s still in bits in my garage," he said. "We had a few starting problems last year so I’ve put in a new harness and a higher output regulator. I’ve also replaced the whole charging system with something that draws less current but gives a higher output. My suspension is also being serviced and I’m replacing a couple of the brackets that were broken in last year’s rally. As soon as all that is sorted, we’ll be good to go and I can’t wait. This year our team consists of Graham Naseby, who will drive the 4x4; Simon Titterton, who will navigate; and Tracey Reynolds, who will be co-navigator and look after logistics."
One of Dave’s team members from last year has decided to have a go at the Heroes Legend herself. Fifty-three-year-old Lorna Thomas has been riding bikes for more than 30 years and had planned to ride the majority of this year’s event, but a recent training accident caused her to break both wrists, so she will be sharing driving duties with her two other team members, Archie Henderson and Joe Twigg.
"I watched and supported Dave last year and it really made me want to have a go myself," said Lorna, whose team is called the Rainbow Raiders. "I couldn’t believe it when I hit a ditch while out training and snapped both of my wrists. It was one of those cases where I didn’t see it until it was too late - I lifted the front wheel but not quickly enough and I went straight into the ditch with the bike landing on top of me. I’m riding again but just don’t know how strong my arms will be for riding the G 650 Xchallenge we’re entering in the ’Open’ class. However, Archie and Joe have competed in many rallies and trials events over the years, so I’m in good company."
Across the North Sea in Holland, specialist BMW Motorsport dealer Bert Duursma has just announced that he will be supporting three riders in the Heroes Legend rally, with some sponsorship from BMW Holland.
"The good news is that we have Pierre Karsmakers riding a G 650 Xchallenge. He finished in third place last year on an HP2 Enduro, so is looking forward to trying the single-cylinder bike this year. He will be joined by a good friend of mine - Harrie Jakobi - on a Touratech equipped G 650 Xchallenge. Harrie and I have ridden three times together in the Alto Turia Rally in Spain. He is a police officer and has been a professional riding instructor for police motorbike riders for many years. Jos Bourgondien will be back again, riding one of my BMW R 65 GS bikes, which has been converted from 650cc to 900cc, thereby increasing its power output from 27 to 65 hp. The suspension has been upgraded and the frame has also been reinforced to cope with the sand, stones and rocky tracks he will encounter in Africa."
Although the rally is not a race, opportunities exist along the route for teams to compete in special stage events that require the utmost in navigation and time management skills. For those with an appetite for adventure and a dream of discovering Africa, there isn’t a better place to be on 8 March than in the centre of Paris for the start of this fantastic rally raid. The www.heroeslegend.com website gives daily coverage throughout the event in March, with pictures, video and satellite map tracking shown on Google Earth.