Four Brits lined up in Mar del Plata for the start of the 2012 Dakar, but with no disrespect to either Toby Younger or Jago Pickering, only two of them, Stan Watts and Sam Sunderland, could harbour any genuine sporting aspirations.
Stan had invested heavily in a good solid structure that included a truck and a chase car all to himself, plus a brand new KTM Rally and the presence of Derrick Edmondson among his numerous helpers. He also had form, having posted impressive stage results on a previous edition.
In the end, and in spite of a high speed crash, the laid back Brit took himself and his Guy Martin replica mutton chops to a highly credible 34thoverall. To put some perspective on that achievement, professional rider and multiple Romanics winner Chris Birch finished 27th! I could be wrong, but I don’t think any other Brit has achieved such a result in the bike class since the late lamented John Deacon.
Turning to Sam Sunderland, given his performance on last year’s UAE Desert Challenge, young Sam could have reasonably aspired to even greater things and his seventh place result on the first special, got everyone’s hopes up. But the dream of a Brit in the top ten quickly evaporated however when he went out with mechanical problems on the very next stage. Fast, but hard on machinery, hopefully Sam won’t be discouraged by the experience, because he clearly has many of the attributes a future champion requires.
With the field becoming increasingly crowded with national level enduro riders, the days of the plucky amateur are fast disappearing. That didn’t stop relative newcomers to the sport Jago Pickering and Toby Younger from having a go. Ably supported by Desert Rose’s Patsy Quick and Martin Wittering they found the pace hard going right from the off - something not helped by having much of their equipment stolen before the start in Mar del Plata!
The usually terminal downward spiral of crashing/late finishing/ exhaustion/repeat-until-retirement eventually got Jago just before the rest day, but against all the odds, Toby fought back from the brink to finish second to last in Lima.
What that represents in terms of sheer willpower is almost unimaginable. Think about every documentary you have ever seen about people climbing Everest without oxygen, or walking to the North Pole unassisted, and you might be getting close to understanding just how deep Toby must have dug to find the motivation to keep going to the final finish line. Huge respect to both him and his support team, who worked virtually around the clock just to keep him and his battled scared bike going all the way to Lima…