* Prices may differ from that shown
When Race to Dakar was first broadcast on TV back in 2006, it somehow passed me by. Having fallen in love with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round when it was on the previous year, I would have looked forward to Charley Boorman's Race To Dakar. But somehow I didn't know it was on, and by the time I realised, it was well into the series, so I missed it. I finally rectified this by watching it on DVD.
Race To Dakar follows Charley and his team as they prepare to enter the Dakar Rally - the most dangerous race on Earth. It's the first time for Charley, and he pulls together a team including two other bikers, Simon Pavey (a Dakar veteran) and Matt Hall (another first-timer); producer and support vehicle driver Russ Malkin; mechanics Gareth and Wolfgang; cameramen Claudio and Jim; and support in the office from the ever reliable Lucy Trujillo.
We follow the gang through preparation, pre-rally injuries, the panic of things not being ready, and of course, the rally itself. Charley has a lot of training to do, and we follow this and his first off road race attempts in detail.
I recently reviewed Charley's By Any Means programme, and I said in that that he worked better in partnership with Ewan on the Long Way programmes. While I still think this is the case - Long Way Round and Long Way Down are far and away my favourites - I thought that Charley carried Race to Dakar very well. I didn't feel I was missing Ewan much at all. I believe that one reason for this is the setting - when Charley is visiting impressive tourist type places, he can get a bit over-effusive in his praise. Everything is "amazing" and "fantastic", and he vows to go back to a lot of places. This can get a bit annoying. However, the Dakar isn't about pretty views, although there are plenty of them - it's an endurance race, and there's not as much scope for overly enthusiastic praise.
I found learning about the Dakar rally and everything involved in it truly fascinating. The intention with Race to Dakar was to make a programme about the privateers who do the rally - the people with no sponsorship, little support, and who use their life savings to enter it. But there are also the corporate teams, and they are perhaps under more pressure - they are expected to win, whereas the privateers only want a finishers medal. It is physically and mentally exhausting for the participants, yet it was interesting to see how they are all hooked on the Dakar - it seems to get under your skin, and once you've been you'll go back. Charley meets many of the other participants along the way, and one Englishwoman, Patsy Quick, is on her fourth Dakar, but has never finished.
I really liked the camerawork in Race to Dakar. Each of the three riders had a camera on their helmet, which could face forward or back, and this gave a real "bikers eye" perspective, which I think is important for programmes such as this. We hear what the participants are saying about how they feel and what they have experienced, but this camera gives us a chance to see what is happening as they see it. In addition, the cameramen filmed the team at the nightly bivouac stops, and they also filmed the support crew in their BMW X5 as they crossed the desert on a different course to the rally. They had as many trials and tribulations as the bikers.
However, one of the best aspects of the camerawork of Race to Dakar, and this is actually something it has which is better than the Long Way programmes, is that because it is a famous sporting event, there is footage filmed for television broadcast. Race to Dakar has been able to use this, and so the programme includes a lot of excellent aerial footage of the rally, some showing Charley and team, and some showing other participants. I found this was particularly effective when it was showing the cars; the rally competitors are mainly on bikes and in cars, but there are also trucks, quad bikes, and possibly other weird things. The bikers are the stars of this show, but the cars are incredible to watch. These mad rally cars charge through the desert at top speed, taking no prisoners and with their eyes only on the prize - they have a bleep system to warn bikes when they are approaching them from behind, but some never use it. The bikers have to stay alert once the cars catch up with them for fear of being mown down. The aerial footage is perfect for showing the speed and power of the cars, they really are incredible machines and their drivers must be fearless.
I don't want to give away too much about what happens, as there are a lot of shocks during the show, but I can say that it does an excellent job of telling the various stories that emerge. As the rally progresses, we follow different people's stories and find out what happens to them. Sometimes the most exciting events are happening with the support crew instead of the bikers, and we see their full story - the show doesn't limit itself to showing the "stars" as it were.
Charley also talks about the effect of the rally on the countries and people it passes. The organisers do their best to ensure the local poverty stricken populations benefit from this massive operation passing them by once a year, but sometimes it has an adverse effect. Sadly locals, often children, are killed in accidents with speeding vehicles. In most places though the locals do support the rally - it is exciting for them, and it is mentioned at one point that the rally provides enough income in some places to support the people for almost the whole year.
I thoroughly enjoyed Race to Dakar, and once I reached the end I found myself hoping that Charley would enter again and document it, so there would be more to watch. It is an entertaining and sometimes moving insight into an incredibly dangerous but very addictive race, which doesn't get much mainstream coverage. This isn't a show just for bikers and petrolheads to watch, it's accessible for everyone, and very interesting.
On this TV series we follow motorbike explorer Charley Boorman on his first adventure after The Long Way Round. In this series Charley is by himself as we follow him in his training and attempt at doing the Dakar rally, an off road rally going from Lisbon to Dakar.
After the success of The Long Way Round, Charley sticks at using the BMW motorbike, which is specially built for him to be able to do the rally. The first few episodes show use Charley in training with Simon Pavey, the off road motorbike trainer who Charley and Ewan used for LWR. Charley also has to try to lose same weight and increase his fitness levels to be able to attempt the rally.
This really is a thrilling rally to watch, purely for the danager element, many people have died throughout the years as cars, bikes and even trucks race each other to Dakar. On the trip are Charley, Simon and a cameraman, all of whom really have to struggle to try and make it through the gruelling sand dunes and the long, long hours of riding, to sleep and the bivouac, to be up early the next morning and start again.
If you enjoyed the LWR & LWD series, you'll love this gripping and enjoyable journey.