The Dakar Rally is a unique, lifechanging experience—a two-week rollercoaster of highs and lows. You live shoulder to shoulder with your teammates, other competitors, and media. You rise, eat, and sometimes even shower together. You sleep caked in dust in tiny tents with no air conditioning. Bitterly cold nights lead to swelteringly hot days, and travel from one stage to the next is long and arduous.
When you sign up for the Dakar Rally, like Monster Energy Honda Team chief mechanic Hide Hanawa, you take yourself out of your comfort zone to experience life, to have an amazing adventure, or maybe even just tell your friends that you were there and made it to the end of this incredible race.
The 55-year-old Japanese knows the routine well. This is his sixth Dakar Rally. “We love racing, but Dakar is special,” he says. “We come here for the sense of adventure. Otherwise, you cannot justify the unbelievably long days and almost no sleep. Dakar molds you, and builds characters and camaraderie.”
The alarm clock wakes Hanawa in the middle of the night. “We wake up one hour and a half before the start of the riders,” he says. “Every day is different. For example, on stage one, Jeddah to Al Wajh, we woke up at 2:30 a.m. as the first rider was leaving at 4:15.”