Dakar co-driver hops out mid-stage to help struggling rider

The ‘Dakar spirit’ or ‘rally spirit’ is something you hear about a lot at this time of year, and it was perhaps summed up best by this incident

Loic Minaudier

Oran O’Kelly set out to become the first Irish rider to complete the Dakar in over 10 years a couple of weeks ago, but an incident on the penultimate stage with a car left him in need of support from an unlikely source.

The Dakar Rally takes place over two weeks, during which there are 12 stages on as many days of competition. Tiring out is therefore to be expected, especially for motorcycle riders who have the physically demanding job of riding a 150kg-or-so motorcycle through rocky and sandy deserts as well as the added mental pressure placed upon them by having to manage their own navigation. For riders in the Malle Moto class, there isn’t even a support crew to prepare the bike between stages, and that has to be done by the rider, too.

For Oran O’Kelly, one moment on Stage 11, the penultimate stage of the rally, left him in a difficult position. A car had tried to pass him up the side of a rocky valley and had slid down towards him, almost hitting him, and causing O’Kelly to fall from his bike. He was able to keep himself in the rally, but getting out of the ravine now proved almost impossible.

Cue the car crew of Frenchmen Matthieu Serradori (driver) and Loic Minaudier (co-driver). They came up to the area where O’Kelly was stuck, and Minaudier decided to help. He jumped out of his and Serradori’s Century CR6-T and hopped on O’Kelly’s bike, riding it out of the ravine and out of the path of more competitors coming behind. 

As Minaudier climbed back into the Century to resume navigational duties for Serradori, O’Kelly tiredly gestured towards him in thanks.

It might be wondered how a co-driver could so competently ride a KTM 450 Rally Replica out of such a tricky spot, but Minaudier is a rider himself and has competed on two wheels at the Dakar five times, achieving a best result of 31st in 2019, the last time the rally took place in South America. So, scrambling out of tough situations is not something new to the Frenchman.

O’Kelly took to social media after Stage 11 to explain the incident. He wrote: “No doubt everyone has seen the clip of Loic Minaudier helping me with my bike. What you didn’t see beforehand was a car try and drive up the side of the valley to overtake me, and slide down to almost hit me and cause me to fall from my machine. 

“While I was trying to gather myself and get out of the way of more cars, Loic was part of the next team to come along and he helped me get my bike out of the rocks and the traffic. Luckily he is also a former Dakar Bike competitor. I’d like to thank him again for his help in what was a pretty tough situation.”

O’Kelly went on to finish the Dakar in 58th position overall in the bike class, which was won for the second time by the combination of Ricky Brabec and Honda. In finishing, O’Kelly became the first Irish rider to do so since Stan Watt finished in 2013. 

As for Serradori and Minaudier, they took their CR6-T to sixth place overall in the car class, which was won for the fourth time by Carlos Sainz and for the first time by Audi in what is rumoured to be their last attempt at the Dakar with the RS Q e-tron.

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