Worthy wildcards: Rookies like no other

Their exploits in five races on four different continents netted them a place in the rally.

The Dakar Challenge selection, held throughout the 2012 season, will give six pilots and crews the opportunity to try their luck and compete with the best in the world.

These are rookies like no others. For them, the Dakar was a distant goal which came within reach thanks to the Dakar Challenge.

Roberto Recalde's fifth place in the Argentinean leg of the Desafío Litoral made his dream come true, and now he is ready to fly his country's flag: "We'll be the first Paraguayans in the rally, so we want to be worthy representatives of our country".

In order to do so, Recalde and his co-driver Carlos Zarza can compare their performance with that of the other Dakar Challenge top finishers in the car category, such as Tarek El Erian, whose best laid plans were turned on their head by his ninth place finish in the Pharaons Rally: "I was planning to get married and had booked our honeymoon for the period around the Dakar.

Rookies like no others...
Rookies like no others...

Photo by: Willy Weyens

I'm really grateful towards my wife-to-be, because this is unthinkable in Egypt, but we postponed the marriage so that I could take part in the rally!” John Van Staden was not planning to discover South America in January either, but he was all too happy to replace Evan Hutchison (winner of the Dakar Challenge in Botswana) when the latter waived his place and he is now ready to seize his chance and go for the top of the classification: "When I was told I could get a wildcard, I said 'yes' without giving it a second thought, and then I had two weeks to get everything ready.

Now I want to make it all the way to the finish, if everything goes according to plan, in the top 20."

Fellow South African Brett Cummings, picked from the Australian leg, has what it takes to stay close to the fastest motorcycle riders, but he prefers to play down his chances for the time being: "My main goal in the Australasian Safari was to get some experience under my belt, and I finished fourth. At the Dakar, I just want to make it to the finish, and I'll be happy enough if I get into the top 50".

The Chinese winner of the Taklimakan Rally, Zhou Thian, will not be on the start line in Lima with his motorcycle, but Cummings will get into a mini-competition with Jeremías Israel, sixth in July's Desafío Literal and holder of another Dakar Challenge wildcard.

Finally, Peruvian quad driver Alexis Hernández, also from the Desafío Litoral gang, rounds off the Dakar Challenge pilot list: "The Dakar makes me feel uneasy, but also very respectful. It's a dream come true, I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it".

Dakar Challenge pilots

89: Brett Cummings (SAF, Honda)
92: Jeremías Israel (CHL, Honda)
289: Alexis Hernández (PER, Honda)
388: Tarek El Erian - Mohamed Aly (EGY-EGY, Bowler)
403: John Van Staden - Mike Lawrenson (SAF-SAF, McRae)
407: Roberto Recalde - Carlos Zarza (PAR-PAR, Higer)


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jeremias Israel
Article type Breaking news
Tags aco, dakar, recalde