The spirit of a legend.
The Paris-Dakar Rally is legendary, just like the people and machines that competed in it. Joy Lewis explores the early days of the epic desert rally in the cities where the race started and finished. Her two companions: Hubert Auriol, who won the Paris-Dakar Rally twice with BMW in the 80s; and the R nineT Urban G/S – a motorcycle whose design is reminiscent of the legendary R 80 G/S.
One glance at the Urban G/S, and the 1980s come alive – the early days of the rallies and desert racers, when Hubert Auriol and Gaston Rahier set out to experience the adventure of their lives between Paris and Dakar. The success of the two off-road heroes of that time is closely linked to the R 80 G/S, a dual-sport machine that became immortal thanks to the Paris-Dakar Rally.
The iconic bike is still passing on its genes today and is also the source of inspiration for the new R nineT Urban G/S. While it clearly belongs to the R nineT family in terms of riding characteristics and innovative technology, its looks are reminiscent of the R 80 G/S: white body elements, the narrow, slightly longer red seat, raised front wheel cover and headlamp mask. It's time to explore the early days of the rally in Paris and Dakar on the Urban G/S.
Visiting Hubert Auriol
With the Urban G/S through Paris, passing the Place du Trocadéro, the famous starting point of the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Joy rides the Urban G/S straight across Paris. On the right bank of the Seine, she passes the Place du Trocadéro, which extends from the Eiffel Tower to the river bank. In 1978, almost 200 motorsport enthusiasts embarked on the first Paris-Dakar Rally from this square. They would ride 10,000 kilometres across Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to Senegal. One of the adventurers was Hubert Auriol, who was 25 years old at the time. Back then, he had no idea that he would win the desert races multiple times and have a significant impact on the cult status of the BMW GS.
Joy Lewis has arranged a meeting with Hubert Auriol in his loft in Paris.
Some 40 years later, Joy Lewis pulls up to Hubert's Paris loft on an Urban G/S. Inside, pictures, trophies, old motorsport magazines and helmets from that era show just how much the rally has shaped Hubert's life. Joy can't wait to ask him all the questions that have been going through her head on the ride through Paris. "I thought I'd have to curb my curiosity. Instead, Hubert was eager to tell me his story. I soaked up every word he said". As Hubert talks, his eyes betray the unquenchable thirst for adventure that still drives the 64-year-old today just as it did back then.
Trophies, helmets, pictures: Hubert's past of rally racing.
Hubert spoke of the 26th of December 1978, when his dream of riding to Africa came true when he joined the Paris-Dakar Rally. A journey that changed his life more than he could have ever imagined. "I wanted to experience something extraordinary during the rally, and then it turned my whole life upside down. Even after I returned, all I thought about was the trip, and suddenly I realized: that's living"! Joy has no idea how long they've been talking. She feels like she was actually in the rally with him. "When Hubert tells his stories, I know that the right way to live is to simply do things instead of just dreaming about them".
Between the ocean and the desert
In Dakar, deep black asphalt gives way to dark-red gravel.
Paris and Dakar could hardly be more different, Joy thinks, as she travels with Hubert through the Senegalese capital. Deep-black asphalt gives way to reddish-brown gravel, which soon turns into a patchwork of pot holes. If the streets of downtown Dakar look like this, imagine the road conditions in the country, or in the desert that riders crossed in the Paris-Dakar Rally. "Nothing has changed since then", says Hubert, looking relieved. "Maybe a few new buildings and streets have sprung up. But the atmosphere is the same. The people are still enthusiastic and friendly. "Ah! You are back in your country", they often say, as if I was one of them", he says.
The ride with the Urban G/S through Dakar evokes strong memories in Hubert Auriol.
Joy is inspired by Hubert's enthusiasm for Senegal and its people; by the emotions that the rally brings up in him. “As the destination of the rally, Senegal is a special place. The people are so happy and cheer you on so joyfully. This is the right atmosphere for a finale”. He climbs on the Urban G/S, which reminds him of his R 80 G/S from the eighties. The boxer that he rode to victory in the toughest desert race in the world in 1981 and 1983. "This bike triggers big emotions in me. I have a lot of very good associations with the BMW motorsport colours and I am happy that the legacy of the R 80 G/S continues to this day". Hubert steers the bike just like a local through "his" Dakar, Joy follows him reverently.
Riding between herds of goats and honking Taxis: this is Dakar.
They manoeuvre their motorcycles past colourful buses and honking taxis; past rattling carts pulled by donkeys. Traffic comes to a standstill at the Place de l'Indépendance as a farmer crosses the road with his herd of goats. This is where the festivities took place after the rally. "The square was overflowing with people and the streets were completely jammed. It took us hours to get to the podium for the award ceremony", says Hubert. Every single moment is a reminder that the speed of life is different in Africa. Time to downshift and take a look around this exotic place in West Africa.
A short break in the city that has all the time in the world.
The Senegalese capital tells an endless story between the ocean and the desert. The peninsula is surrounded by the Atlantic ocean on three sides. And even though the steppes begin right beyond the city, Dakar is still tropical and humid, and its soil is fertile. Between green park oases, construction sites dominate the cityscape; although it's not clear whether buildings are being demolished or built. Simple huts are situated alongside mighty hotel buildings. Colourful market stalls are set up in front of grey concrete buildings. Hubert and Joy take a break at a beach restaurant. A brass plaque on the restaurant's "Wall of Fame" shows how much Hubert Auriol is revered in Dakar. His name shines alongside pop stars of the eighties such as the French singer Dalida or Stevie Wonder.
Between red ground and red sky alongside the coast of Dakar.
They continue on the Route de la Corniche Ouest, riding northwards along the coast. Joy owns an original R 80 G/S Paris-Dakar and can hardly believe that she's tracing the route of the rally with one of the heroes from those days. "I try to make sure there's always enough adventure in my life. Hubert's story shows me that that's the right way to live". Joy would like to hold on to this moment. Red earth surrounds them, blending seamlessly into the red sunset over the Atlantic. From here they have a magnificent view of the city whose silhouette flickers in the evening light. The time seems to stand still in the city which has all the time in the world.
Dream destination Lac Rose
Worn-out wooden boats line the shore at Lac Rose.
The silence stands out. It intensifies the moment and the feeling that you get just looking at the pink lake. Lac Rose – a dream destination. World-famous as the final destination of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Here, 30 kilometres northeast of the bustling capital of Senegal, the world is different. "Lac Rose is magical", says Joy, full of awe, as she and Hubert arrive at the lake. Decrepit wooden boats line the shore. Farmers cruise across the lake to collect salt from the bottom. Beyond the samphire bushes, dunes rise up on the narrow corridor between the lake and the Atlantic.
The moments at the very end of the rally Paris-Dakar have engraved themselves into Hubert's memory.
"When we arrived here after the rally, there was nothing left of the silence", says Hubert, laughing. "There were people everywhere cheering and celebrating us like stars. That moment was so memorable after all the hardships, doubts and difficulties during the race". Hubert's experiences are still ever-present for him even though they're so far in the past. They're burned into his memory. Not only that, they have shaped his life and made him and the Paris-Dakar Rally a legend.