Dakar: Race to Dakar BMW preview

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Actor adventurer Charley Boorman is set to take on the unforgiving elements in the World's ultimate test of endurance for man and machine, the notorious Dakar Rally (31st December -- 15th January). Viewers will witness the highs and lows of ...

Actor adventurer Charley Boorman is set to take on the unforgiving elements in the World's ultimate test of endurance for man and machine, the notorious Dakar Rally (31st December -- 15th January). Viewers will witness the highs and lows of Charley's entry in the dangerous event, from preparations to finish line in Race to Dakar, a small screen spectacular slated for Autumn 2006.

Charley will be pushed to the limits both emotionally and physically in this desert ordeal, with his navigational and riding skills being challenged as much as his capacity for extreme fatigue and stress in the face of danger over snow-capped mountains or sculptured sand dunes.

The Dakar Rally is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding battles across inhospitable terrain, alone, to achieve the impossible. For a first time participant like Charley, finishing the race in Dakar will be the ultimate goal. Race to Dakar is as much a team effort as an individual feat of endurance and all Dakar competitors, whether amateur (80%) or professional, share unique and unforgettable experiences which bond them for life.

The lure of Dakar has been with Charley as a personal ambition since an early age at home in Ireland. "What's special for me is that when I was young the Dakar was really popular,' he said. "I remember watching TV and being blown away by it and thinking, 'one day I'm going to do that'. And now the opportunity has come. "It's an amazing experience just to get this far. From a small conversation about wanting to do it to sitting here ten months later with four rally bikes is fantastic. With three months to go there is that sick feeling starting of 'what have I done?' But I guess we've come a bit too far to back out now!"

Training for this endurance race has been intense and on more than one occasion gave Charley -- and his family - cause for concern about continuing. "I've had a pretty gruelling six months, it's been really tough,' he said. "Even training has pushed me to new limits. I was badly injured while training in Dubai and I keep cracking my ribs so they don't heal properly. I have a hairline fracture on my spine, crushed vertebrae, my knees don't feel good and my feet are constantly aching from the boots. So it's going really well!"

Race to Dakar comes hot on the heels of Long Way Round, the global TV success that had millions glued to their screens as biker mates Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor rode from London to New York - the long way round. Their three-month marathon trek took them through 12 countries in Europe, Asia and North America and threw up some pretty hairy moments that formed a unique television event, a best-selling DVD, book and CD soundtrack and sold into territories including Australia, Canada, Japan, France, Spain and Italy. Russ Malkin will again produce Race to Dakar via his event production company, Image Wizard Media (www.imagewizardmedia.com). A DVD and book will support the project.

"We had a monumental undertaking with Long Way Round,' said Russ. "We had the road movie of Ewan and Charley on an incredible adventure. Worldwide success has allowed us to enter the Dakar Rally and again those elements are in place: the excitement and danger plus Charley's charisma that audiences have grown to love. Training has been hard on everyone but the team is ready for all that nature can throw at us. We are ready to support Charley in the challenges ahead in the desert." For the first time, the Dakar Rally will start in Lisbon, Portugal, on 31st December, instead of its more usual Paris. From there, competitors will set out for Africa in a caravan of nearly 500 cars, bikes, quads and trucks - plus support vehicles - across some of the most stunning but uncompromising landscapes known to man.

Due to its geographical position as a bridge between Europe and Africa, Portugal is a natural host for the Dakar Rally and will hold its own challenges right from the offset. Once they cross the Mediterranean, the drivers will head south through the desert heat of Morocco, in to Mauritania, Mali and the dense vegetation of Guinea, before crossing the finishing line on the banks of Lake Rose in Dakar, Senegal, on 15th January 2006. Charley said: "The hardest thing to do when you're on your own, emotional and tired, is to keep your speed up. Getting to the end of a stage of the rally in daylight will be important. Navigation will be so important as well -- getting lost can be the end of the Rally for you. I am generically terrible when left by myself so it's going to be interesting to see how I cope."

In its 28 year history, the romantic mystique of the Dakar Rally has inspired the dreams and passion of the greatest motor-racing names, as well as stars from music and film. It is also a key event in the calendar for major motor manufacturers, including BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen, Toyota, Yamaha and Honda. Uniquely, it remains open to amateurs and professionals.

It would be impossible for a race of this magnitude to be without its fallen victims. Most recently, Italy's Fabrizio Meoni, twice winner of the rally, and Spanish amateur Jose Manuel Perez died in the rally that has claimed 22 competitors since its debut as the Paris-Dakar in 1978. The race's more tragic history is not lost on Charley or his family. "The closer I get to the Dakar the more worried I am,' explained Charley. "There is that sickness feeling and the worry. It is such a short time compared to Long Way Round but I am so much more worried about this trip. Dakar is only 15 days but there's more at stake. It's far more dangerous and it does keep me awake at night: Worrying about completing the Dakar, worrying about my family. I know they're worried, too, and the closer it gets the more sleepless nights I have.

"But my wife Olly is used to it. She's a very cool chick. She is supportive in everything I do and never questions me or says 'you can't do that'."

-mac-

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