Dakar 2019—through ravines, dust, and truck tracks
A wild adventure through the sand dunes of Peru, an incredibly brave hero, and a huge amount of bad luck—these are the key plot points in the story of Emanuel “Mani” Gyenes, the privateer sponsored by MAHLE in the 2019 Dakar Rally. But let’s start at the beginning ...
In 2019, the Dakar Rally was held for the forty-first time—and the eleventh consecutive time in South America. The motorcycle category saw 137 competitors fighting for victory. The route would take them from the capital, Lima, to Arequipa in the south and back again ... at least in theory.
Ten stages covering more than 5,500 kilometers, of which 70 percent is on sand. More specifically: dunes reaching heights of over 2,000 meters, ravines, riverbeds full of stones, and lots of treacherous fesh-fesh, a surface consisting of extremely fine sand. And all this at temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius.
Mani Gyenes, 34 years old, from Satu Mare, Romania. 1.80 meters tall, weighing 90 kilos. He is one of the best privateer riders and made his Dakar debut in 2007, when it was still held in Africa. In 2011 and 2015, he won the Marathon class and in 2016 achieved his best ranking so far in the general classification with an amazing 14th place.
This tale with a dramatic ending started badly. During a photo shoot on his KTM 450 in November, he sustained a fracture to his humerus (upper arm). That was less than two months before the start of the Dakar! But for Mani it was just one more reason to work even harder. He posted regular progress reports on his Facebook page, demonstrating his fighting spirit. He received a lot of support from his wide circle of friends and from his sponsors—one of the most well-known and important being MAHLE.
In 68th position, he was still in the middle of the field after the first stage, but our lovable Romanian hero continued to fight his way forward. After the fifth leg, he had already reached 38th place, putting him fourth in the Marathon class! Incredible, when you think about his serious injury. On his Facebook page, he wrote: “Of course, I’d like the route to be easier in the second half, but it doesn’t look like it will be. All I want is to cross the finish line in Lima. Thanks so much to everyone who has cheered me on in the first week of Dakar 2019!” The results in the sixth and seventh stages continued to give cause for optimism...
No one could express the disappointment—or his fighting spirit—better than Mani himself: “I attempted the impossible and was so close to achieving it, but it wasn’t to be. The eighth leg of Dakar 2019 was ill-fated from the start. Eighty percent of the motorcycle riders started after ten cars and five trucks, which meant that the trail was extremely heavy with dust and rutted with tracks. I hit the ground hard, the navigation system was trashed, and my right arm wasn’t really improving. I tried to struggle on with my bike, but I had to stop after 10 kilometers, because I couldn’t grip the handlebars anymore. After a ten-minute wait, I’d finally had enough—I called the helicopter. But my Dakar dreams won’t end just because I finished in this way. Next year, I’ll be stronger and even more motivated to return!”