ADV Pulse

Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly


Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Connect With Us

Follow On Facebook:

Ever Wonder If You Could Race Dakar? Here’s What It Takes.

Two Dakar Rally Privateers share how they made racing Dakar a reality.

Published on 08.25.2015


Rank by importance: speed, navigating, mechanical, fitness, determination.

Scott Bright: Determination is probably the most important thing to have to get you through a Rally. It is easy to become frustrated, but necessary to keep your head on your shoulders and get to the Finish Line. Making mistakes while navigating can easily double the time you are on the course. Sharpening your navigational skills is key to finishing. It really helps to have a base knowledge of motorcycle mechanics before starting out, as well. If something goes wrong, you will need to work your way through the problem and one way or another get to the Finish Line.


I guess I am in some sort of shape! Round is a shape, right? Fitness is key and watching how you fuel your body is critical. You wouldn’t dump bad gas in your bike, why would you do that to yourself? I was at one of Dave Peckham’s Rally schools last year and a super-fast desert racer showed up to ride with us, but had no ‘nav’ experience at all. We were warned about his exceptional speed, and Dave remarked “I’m sure you will be going very fast — but probably not in the right direction!” I always remind myself to make good choices because of that quote.

Dakar Rally equipment roadbook holder odometer
Exceptional speed is nothing if you are going the wrong direction. Sharpening your navigational skills is key to finishing.

What personality trait would you say is most common among Dakar finishers?

Scott Bright: If you completed personality tests on all the Dakar finishers, you would probably find that every one of them is stubborn. Tim McGraw sings a song called “Can’t Tell Me Nothin”. I think the guy he is singing about is a Dakar Finisher.

What is the percentage of those who try that actually finish the Dakar?

Scott Bright: I believe the finish rate is somewhere around 50%. I believe the organizers want to keep the event difficult, and if they have too many people finishing, it must not be hard enough. They will ratchet up the difficulty until they get the DNF (did not finish) rate that they are looking for.

What’s the most common reason people don’t finish?

Scott Bright: I believe the most common reason for failure is overlooking the details. Make lists, check them five times, think about all the ‘what-if’s,’ prepare for the worst, and prepare to FINISH!

If you’d known how hard it would be beforehand, would you still have tried?

Scott Bright: I have a predisposition to be a bit masochistic. When I hear horror stories, it makes me want to go out and experience that. I have a deep desire to struggle and persevere. Not sure why, but that is my chemical make-up.

Ned Suesse: Yes. Its difficulty is the whole point of the exercise. If it were easier, I would not have tried.

prepare for success in the dakar rally details
Pay attention to the details, prepare for the worst, and prepare to FINISH!

How has the pursuit of racing Dakar affected your personal lives?

Ned Suesse: I think that when we face challenges that terrify us, it will always change us for the better by proving to ourselves that most risks are in our minds more than they are in reality. For me, Dakar was a turning point in my life, when I realized that I was more capable than I had ever given myself credit for. I think there is no easy path to self-belief; the only way is by trying things that are hard.

Scott Bright: Racing has consumed most of my free time over the past 25 years. Who knows what I would be good at doing if I didn’t race? The competition has challenged me to be a better person: more diverse and focused, less emotional about little stuff, and dedicated to seeing things through. I keep things in balance realizing that I would never sacrifice my marriage and my family in exchange for a thrill. Knowing that my wife married me because of who I was when I was racing, and she understands that if I were to change and be a different (non-racing) person, I would probably not be the person she was attracted to 21 years ago!

Who has helped you the most to achieve your goal of racing the Dakar?

Scott Bright: It always helps to be able to lean on someone who has done it before. I have lots of friends who have competed in Dakar, but I have gained most of my knowledge and expectations from Ned. I try to talk with him as often as possible to make sure I am on the right track. Dave Peckham has been a huge support with achieving my goal of racing Dakar. Without either of them, I would not be doing this!

What kind of support team do you need, and how important are they?

Scott Bright: It’s always fun to have people that believe in what you are doing, but that doesn’t always pay the bills. People that will sit down and write a check, or take days off work, or customize products, or ‘all of the above’ are who I consider my support team. There would be no option of Dakar if it were not for people like that.

What are some good resources to help Dakar hopefuls get started on the path?

Scott Bright: Look through the results from the past 20 years. See who has competed, whether they finished or not. Look them up and ask a ton of questions. Read Lawrence Hacking’s book. Go to a rally school.

Final Question: Who’s faster, Ned or Scott?

Scott Bright: Oooooh Look! A squirrel!

Photos by Justin W. Coffey

Author: Kyra Sacdalan

Kyra is a freelance journalist and author, as well as the co-creator of WESTx1000 a multimedia company that creates content for the adventure community. Conceived in a coin-op laundry room in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, what started as an excuse to ride dirt bikes in Baja has become a portal into the lives of two authors, photographers and cultural anthropologists. Whether they’re documenting the infamous Baja 1000 off-road race, crossing the country on a pair of Indian Scouts, investigating Japan’s eclectic motorcycle culture, or riding their dual-sports from Barstow to Vegas, the idea stays the same…

<< Prev Page     1 2 3    

Author: Kyra Sacdalan

Related Stories

Related Stories

Notify me of new posts via email

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mario P.
Mario P.
August 26, 2015 6:34 pm

Interesting read. It truly takes a lot of perseverance to keep going in spite of all the obstacles. Hat’s off to anyone that achieves the dream of Dakar!

December 3, 2015 7:31 pm

Thanks for asking the question I have had for decades.
I did wonder if i could make the Dakar
Thanks for a Great insightfull article.
Keep asking those questions!

Dean Henthorn
Dean Henthorn
October 5, 2018 11:54 am

Great story and insights.I think in my next life Dakar is my top priority. Maybe I can still go shoot pics of it in this one though!

scott eppinger
scott eppinger
January 12, 2019 5:47 am

Very good ,, thanks for the perspective !!


Watch: 2024 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro Tested

For 2024, Triumph's dirt-focused Tiger 900 — the Rally Pro — has received...

My First Time Riding Enduro, How Hard Could It Be?

Nestled between the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains of California lies a l...

DoubleTake’s Popular Off-Road Mirrors Get Major Upgrade For 2024

Life always looks clearer in the rear view, that is, until you’re looking int...