And while it’s a real adventure, there are sweep vehicles and other assistance there to guarantee that it won’t end too badly! The logistics are impressive, and the number of support vehicles involved makes it look like a real competition: one heavy duty truck for the transport of luggage, food, water, beers and stricken motorcycles; one 4x4 truck from Dakar; one pick-up for mechanical assistance; one 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser for press; one 4x4 Land Cruiser for the medical crew; one 4x4 Land Cruiser for the boss, as well as two motorcycles for the press, (one of which I’ve used for three years now – a regular Suzuki DR600, great bike only missing an electric starter, alas!).
The medical team is led by an orthopaedic surgeon and traumatologist, and his wife who is a psychologist and neuropsychologist, expert in trauma injuries. They are assisted by another Spanish doctor. Very reactive, they travel in their 4x4, helped by satellite, GPS and radio.
Safety is a really crucial aspect. Every participant gets a beacon. It’s connected by satellite to the organising team, allowing the boss to know exactly where is every rider is, through the live feed to his tablet, such is modern technology we have this even in the middle of the desert! The whole raid is also checked in real time by a remote observer based in Spain. This instrument also allows the riders to be in contact at any time with the mechanics, the doctors, but also to warn the organisation in case of late, but safe, arrival. The rescue helicopter of the Moroccan army is the last option available in an emergency.
On the mechanical side, Pep surrounds himself with true McGyvers. Two guys capable of repairing a clutch in the desert, capable of welding a crankcase – bare-chested – wearing just sunglasses for protection. A permanent smile on their lips, a great conviviality – and a fresh beer never too far from reach. One is riding a motorcycle for rapid deployment, the other in a pick-up with the heavy equipment. They are reactive and very effective. They operate all day long dealing with the breakdowns then help the participants with the daily mechanical repairs at the end of each stage, sometimes till late at night. The machines of course being of a certain age, and mileage, and are being subject to really tough use, so you can imagine the rate of attrition. But those mechanics, yeah, ‘tireless’ barely does them justice.
Everything is designed to ensure the riders enjoy their journey to the max. Indeed, the Soloraids team even pick up the riders’ equipment and motorcycles in Europe a few weeks before the departure, and bring everything back, taking care of the boring customs formalities and of numerous kilometres separating us from Morocco’s tracks. The participants just need to jump on a plane with a little cabin luggage, to arrive fresh for the first stage.
Pep is surrounded by extraordinary efficient staff, hand-picked every one. Often voluntary and present since the first steps of the raid, they give everything to make the machine well oiled without affecting the adventurous nature. There is no strict rule, everyone there is responsible for himself and the common sense remains the best team member. They work night and day, sleep little, smile a lot and support the riders without demur. Without them and their hard work, before, during and after the event, nothing would be workable.