“We’re not here for a long time, we are here for a good time...”
Were the lure and mystique of riding on the African Continent not already enough, the 2013 Tuareg Rallye promised a challenging week of racing through some of the most dramatic and arduous desert terrain in the North African country of Tunisia.
With seven riders and two crew, the If You See Kay Wines sponsored / Rally Management Services supported US-based rally team were one of the most accomplished and experienced collectives in the Bivouac this year - comprising a quartet of ex Dakar Rally riders together with a trio of Dakar mechanics, which in turn meant the less experienced members of the team were in the best company to ensure their inaugural rallye might go as smoothly as possible.
With such a formidable resume, you would be forgiven in thinking that the members of team IYSK Wines/RMS were deadly serious about leaving their mark on both the field of European competitors and the Tunisian sand... while nothing could actually be further from the truth: “I’m simply here to have a good time!” smiles ex Paris-Dakar racer and Rally Pan-Am team manager Charlie Rauseo, a sentiment echoed by his Tuareg Rallye teammate and Dakar 2012 finisher Ned Suesse: “What I love most about rallying is the opportunity to ride somewhere new and exciting, and meeting new people along the way” he grins.
Despite this relaxed attitude, both Charlie and Ned were racing in the ‘Profi’ class, where competition is fierce and the Rallye Organization pull no punches, particularly when it comes to the motorcycle route - with many technical sections that would test even the most accomplished and experienced enduro rider. “I was surprised at the severity of some the stages - much harder than I imagined they would include in this kind of event” Ned reveals “But it was still great fun - although I guess that all depends on what your definition of fun is!” he grins.
Fortunately the less experienced members of the team also shared a similar laid-back ethos towards racing “This is my first desert rally” says Jean-Luc Solans “So I’m here to gain experience and to see if I’m cut out for this kind of event - I’ll be happy just to finish.” With a background in Adventure riding, Jean-Luc was able to cope well with the varying terrain and conditions during the first half of the rally, only to suffer an unfortunate minor accident on the 5th day which left him with a broken ankle, and no option but to retire. Despite his obvious disappointment, he remained upbeat “It was a fantastic experience, and I proved to myself I have what it takes after all!” he smiles.
The sole British rider in Team IYSK is Sid Milton - an experienced Dakar mechanic and regular support-crew member with Rally Management Services, and despite being an accomplished road-racer, surprisingly the Tuareg Rallye was his first time actually riding in a desert rally “I thought it was about time I actually had a go myself - [and] see what the fuss is all about!” he chuckles.
Canadian Dirk Kessler is another Dakar Rally veteran - having ridden in the South American edition in 2010. “Unfortunately I had to retire after an accident early on in that event” he reveals, and while the passage of time undoubtably has added to his relaxed demeanor, clearly he still has unfinished business with the desert. Despite suffering from sickness immediately prior to the start, his steady progress throughout the week saw him finish comfortably in the top 20, and the highest placed Amateur class rider in the team.
Similarly it has been a long time since Mike Krynock - another ex African-Dakar competitor (and Rally-Pan Am teammate with Charlie Rauseo back in 2005) had been racing, and felt the Tuareg Rallye was the perfect opportunity for a reunion, and to get back to doing what they love most - ripping it up in the desert and having fun! Unfortunately, he arrived in Tunisia nursing a chronic bout of pneumonia, and with no choice but to miss the first day, he elected to rejoin the rally in the Amateur group in an effort to struggle though, which he managed admirably.
Unfortunately teammate and compatriot Bart Combs was not quite so lucky. Having broken his collarbone during a training ride just a few weeks before the rally, he was in no position to start racing again so soon without seriously compromising his recovery. “I’m still in quite a lot of pain, and it’s not properly healed - it just isn’t work the risk” he explains. Never one to be beaten however, since his race-bike had already shipped from the US, Bart elected to travel out with his team mates and was able to ride the assistance route each day and help the support crew provide for the riders racing. “I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to ride in Africa” He explains “And I even managed to venture out into the dunes on one day!”
So while the individual team members all experienced a very different and often personal journey during the rally, the standout performance was undoubtably Ned Suesse, who having elected to simply ‘ ride his own ride’ for the duration, kept his focus and rode to his strengths while many of the other top riders made mistakes. With a series of impressive top 10 stage finishes (including 2nd place on consecutive days), Ned ultimately finished the rallye on the second step of the podium - with no time penalties at all, and an impressive 46 minutes ahead of the third place finisher.
RMS proprietor Dave Peckham and chief mechanic Colin Pratt were delighted with their team’s results: “We didn’t come here with any agenda other than to have fun” says Dave “So it is fantastic to see our riders do so well against some serious competition.” Having handled the logistics of Intercontinental shipping, European transport and event management either side of and during the rally itself, they were looking forward to providing a similar service for North American based riders in the future. “This event is a the perfect introduction to rally raid” says Dave “If you are considering entering the Dakar Rally at any point in your life, then I seriously recommend you enter a rally like this first to gain valuable experience” and Colin agrees: “Every day the guys would come in and tell me what a tough day they had had” he reveals “If you can do well at this event, then you might just have a chance at the Dakar!” he grins.
The whole team would like to thank If You See Kay Wines for the opportunity to take part in the Tuareg Rallye 2013. I left the team toasting their respective successes in the hotel lobby with a bottle of ‘Kay, their motto “Wide open throttle, or don’t bother!” summarizing the week racing in Tunisia perfectly.
Final results for the Team IYSK Wines riders:
#97 Ned Suesse (USA) - class: Moto Profi - 2nd overall
#75 Charlie Rauseo (USA) - class: Moto Profi - 30th overall
#133 Dirk Kessler (CAN) - class: Moto Amateur - 14th overall
#137 Mike Krynock (USA) - class: Moto Amateur - 32nd overall
#319 Sid Milton (GBR) - class: Moto Amateur - 34th overall
#317 Jean-Luc Solans (FRA) - class: Moto Amateur - 52nd overall (retired SS5 - injury)
[b]#331 Bart Combs (USA)[/b[ - class: Moto Amateur - 60th overall (DNS - injury before race)
The team on the eve of the rally:
And celebrating their success at the end with a bottle of 'Kay:
Would like to thank... etc.
(article by Jenny Morgan)