He travelled the world the Long Way Round on his motorcycle with best friend Ewan McGregor. Now, Charley Boorman is back and chronicling his quest to conquer the Dakar Rally in the new seven-part series Race To Dakar.
Race To Dakar., airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT, premiering Nov. 15. Considered by drivers and enthusiasts to be the world’s most challenging off-road rally, the 2006 Dakar Rally took contestants 9043 kilometres through Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea ending in Dakar, Senegal, on the banks of Lac Rose. Watch as Boorman and his team struggle with fitness, logistics and even broken bones, all for the glory of competing in the world’s greatest off-road race.
Competing against experienced Dakar racers is no easy task, even for someone who’s circumnavigated the globe on a motorcycle. To prepare for this incredible journey, Boorman surrounded himself with a strong team and participated in an intensive fitness program. Team member Simon Pavey – BMW’s chief off-road instructor – put him through his paces at BMW’s off-road skills courses in South Wales. There, he learned the fundamentals of off-road riding, how to handle his bike in desert conditions and how to adapt to the change in climate. He also learned how to maintain his bike properly and how to minimize damage.
Boorman entered the race with Pavey and cameraman Matt Hall who filmed much of their journey. Bike technicians Gareth Edmunds and Wolfgang Banholzer kept them going by repairing the bikes at each bivouac – a tented village where competitors eat and rest – along the course. The Race To Dakar team joined the 508 registered teams in the race, including 240 motorcycles, 188 cars and 80 trucks (as well as 240 assistance vehicles). The 2006 Dakar Rally was made even more difficult than previous years, as GPS functions were deliberately reduced, forcing drivers and co-drivers to navigate exclusively on information provided in their road book.
The seven-part series breaks down as follows:
Race To Dakar – Episode One
Wed., Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
Boorman starts his preparations for the Dakar Rally, beginning with finding his team and getting fit. Simon Pavey – BMW’s chief off-road instructor and an experienced Dakar rider – agrees to join the team, having completed the challenge three times in previous years. Now, they not only need an experienced rider but also someone capable of filming the journey. This is where Matt Hall steps in. The fitness training is a struggle for Boorman, but the only way for him to prepare is to familiarize himself with the tough terrains that lie ahead. In order to get “bike fit,” Boorman takes to the dunes of Dubai where he realizes that this is going to be much harder than he ever imagined. Finally, a broken bone could put the whole project in jeopardy.
Race To Dakar – Episode Two
Wed., Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
After suffering a major set-back, Boorman has to get his team to the start line in Lisbon. The team begins to feel the pressure when the support vehicle – a BMW X5 – has trouble getting to the start line. They get help from the BMW garage in Lisbon to get through the tough process of qualifying the car in order to race. Boorman’s next challenge is his road book, a navigational instrument that sits on the handle bars the bike planning out the route of the rally ahead. Finally, the rally has arrived. Three bikes, including the impressive BMW X5, and a huge support truck are all ready and waiting to race.
Race To Dakar – Episode Three
Wed., Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
Minutes into the start of the race Boorman runs out of fuel. Luckily he has the support of his two mechanics close behind him in the support vehicle. With each kilometer posing a challenge, Boorman is in constant doubt of his mental and physical abilities and is overwhelmed by the pressure of not letting people down. Then, his worst fear is realized: his road book is broken. He resorts to following Hall and Pavey through the rally stages, with the constant worry that he could lose them at any moment. Then, the BMW X5 breaks down. The repairs are eating into their travel time and making it to the ferry crossing from Malaga to Morocco is going to be tight. If they miss it, their journey is over.
Race To Dakar – Episode Four
Wed., Dec. 13 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
After a brief rest, Boorman, Pavey and Hall roll off the ferry in Morocco. Boorman is anxious of what lies before him, including low visibility, lack of sleep, rocky terrain, speeding cars and the sand dunes. As the first riding stage in Africa begins, the race intensifies and Boorman’s fears increase, especially when Hall has his first fall off of the bike. He escapes unharmed but leaves a huge hole is his gas tank causing problems for the mechanics at the bivouac that evening.
Suddenly, disaster strikes, and Boorman also comes off of his bike. Completely unaware of the extent of his injuries, he gets back on the bike and rides a gruelling 150 kilometers with pain searing through his arms. When he finally reaches the bivouac he is rushed straight to the medical tent. After numerous x-rays, the doctor delivers devastating news: his hands are broken and he is out of the race.
Race To Dakar – Episode Five
Wed., Dec. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
Morale is at an all-time low as Pavey and Hall continue the rally one man down. Boorman picks himself up and flies from bivouac to bivouac to stay close to his remaining team-mates throughout the remainder of the rally. Then, more problems occur for the support team when the car’s rear wish bone breaks. Not only does the car no longer function, but the two bike mechanics are stuck in the middle of the desert with no way of making it back to the bivouac to fix Pavey and Hall’s bikes in time for the next day’s riding. Russ Malkin, the team manager and producer of Race To Dakar, makes the executive decision to hitch a ride in the back of a passing truck to get back to the bivouac in time to work on the bikes, leaving the crew high and dry in the middle of the Sahara. Back in the rally, Hall is struggling to compete with the immensity of the dunes when exhaustion hits and he packs it in. Pavey is now the last man standing and he rides off into the dark leaving Hall all alone. A mere 20 minutes later, Pavey returns and explains to Hall that there are only a few kilometres to the next concrete road and that he could make it. Hall jumps back on his bike and Pavey guides them through the night to reach the next bivouac safe and sound.
Race To Dakar – Episode Six
Wed., Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
In this episode, Pavey and Hall make it to Nouakchott, Mauritania for the rest day. Hall’s nerves are high following his near exit and he knows the dunes to come are even more intense. The two remaining team members agree that if Hall starts to struggle in the sand, Pavey will have no other choice but to leave him and continue. After fixing the BMW X5 so recently, disaster strikes once more. Will the team’s mechanics fix it in time to make it to the bivouac? Tragic news hits the rally when fellow rider Andy Caldecott dies in a horrific crash. Everyone is left feeling empty and devastated. Back on the bikes Hall is finding it harder than ever finally succumbs to the dunes. All night long he waits for the sweeper truck to pick him up.
Race To Dakar – Episode Seven
Wed., Jan. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT
After spending the night in the desert, Hall is picked up and makes his way to Dakar to meet up with the rest of the team when they arrive. Pavey teams up with his old riding buddies from previous Dakar rallies and battles through the final dunes and receives his fourth finishing medal. Boorman waits at the finishing line to welcome Pavey with his best friend, actor Ewan McGregor. Boorman’s family arrive at the finish line to congratulate him and the rest of the team for making it to the end of this incredible journey.