When a person feels that he has a task and sees that the work of many years is hanging by a thread, he only has two options, one, take a step back and sit regretting it all his life, or two, open his eyes, clench his teeth , and push hard even if your life depends on it.
It is that moment, when you put yourself in your place, you bring out your best version and you feel that you are not alone in your purpose of achieving the goal, there is something or someone that pushes you, that makes you float, that accompanies you until the end.
This is my case, this happened to me. As much as it is hard for me to believe, we again performed the miracle of reaching the finish line for the eleventh time in this great Dakar Rally 2022, managing to finish in this great edition.
You came into the world for a very limited time, just the time necessary to know that you were absent to do something that you could not achieve from here. I keep trying to achieve my dreams, and not having you by my side means a great sacrifice, but my main desire is to help many people. So I decided, and accepted. “How great you are my son”. This story is for you, a story that will surely remain engraved in the hearts of thousands of people.
I would only like that what we have achieved together we know how to accept it and continue to provide our help to those who need it most and want to receive it, and of course, in our own way.
Like every year and it’s already a custom, I begin to draw up the new plan to follow for next year, and I always write these first lines from the plane that takes us to Barcelona on our way home, full of participants from each last Dakar .
With the same reflection, I ended my journey at the 2021 Dakar Rally… My years as a biker Raider ended after three consecutive Dakar Rallyes on a motorcycle. My dreams are coming true, and I have been the first person in the world to participate and finish the Dakar together with my traveling companion, type 1 diabetes. That is how we fight and say it, and we are not willing to give up so much effort and work. What’s more, I realize all the people that my challenges and achievements help, and this makes us better, and helps us achieve our objectives of struggle and effort in favor of so many people with diabetes, and with other diseases and disabilities. , and even without them.
As I said, already on the plane back from Dakar 2021, I got down to work, and began to draw up a plan for the next Dakar 2022. Of course, aim for the highest, I wanted to run with side by syde, and I started looking for sponsors, collaborations and budgets, but getting to reach those figures was an almost impossible mission and more so with which I was falling, so I started, at the same time , to manage and mess around. It was the beginning of March 2022, when one morning I found on an Internet page a car partially prepared to compete in classics, and I asked Dani Mesa, its current owner and Rallye co-driver, for the documentation and all the information to verify the age of the car. vehicle, state and try to know for sure that it was the right car. I quickly called Fran Vega, my friend and confidant on these issues, and told her everything, as well as the rest of the team, and they thought the idea of taking that old Toyota Land Cruiser 90 D4D rally race car from the year 99 was fantastic.
In a few days we planted ourselves in Seville, where the car resided, to try it out and close the deal. Time is running fast and there was much work to be done and regulations to be learned. For me everything was new, a new story to give visibility to Diabetes, and to all the people who follow us and accompany us in our project and participation.
When we started messing around with the car, we saw that it had a lot of mechanical work to do, and that it required a lot of equipment to adapt it to the strict ASO regulations.
I could not afford to take the car to specialized workshops. The budget was so tight, that I installed an old TV with Internet in my garage to learn everything about this very tough car online. There were numerous tutorials on YouTube, Facebook pages, specialized groups, etc… With the exceptional help of Fran and Alberto, we managed to completely disassemble it a couple of times so that GLUCOHETE, as our followers would later baptize it via networks, was ready for the Dakar Rally 2022. I learned to know it and repair it, since it was going to be very difficult to have an official assistance workshop in the Dakar, so we had to take care of this 100×100 during the race.
My friend Fran Vega was the one who was going to accompany me as a co-pilot on this adventure. Great mechanic, capable of repairing any vehicle and junk, anywhere. For me, we were the perfect combination, but after having participated in several Rally events together such as the Navarra Classic, Baja Aragón, Zuera Rally, etc, for personal reasons, Fran could not accompany me, so I had to put my batteries, look for a new co-driver, and prepare quickly and well as a mechanic. The substitute was Jorge Vera, who did not have much idea of mechanics, so we drew up a hard work plan, and every night, each one, had to carry out specific mechanical tasks. It was great, and my wife Mer, the best mechanic of the entire team A Diabetic In The Dakar, also came into this role. It was an incredible job, worthy of the best groups and brightest participants in this great race.
Getting to take the start was unprecedented madness. Since mid-December 2022, the incidence of COVID19 began to rise, and a lot of uncertainty was created. Despite being vaccinated, we had to take two PCR tests before the race, and if you tested positive, you stayed home. Finally, after many procedures and paperwork, Jorge, Mer and I moved to Jedaah. Mer, my wife, helps with everything, with my diabetes, with the administration, with communication, with social networks, because if you come to the Dakar and don’t tell, it’s as if you hadn’t come. Everything was perfect, and after the administrative and technical checks OK, we already had departure time.
Due to the age of the car we entered the Classic H2 category (we had no choice), it is an intermediate category, but not a minor one, with very high averages, and where you have to give a lot of gas and insulin.
Once, on the field, our goal was far away and the stakes were not very high in our favor. Our strategy was to go from less to more, learning a little more about the race each day and trying to manage the car to reach our great goal, to reach the finish line every day and finish this great race. We are competitive, and we wanted to be at the top, while recognizing the reality and the limitation of our economic means. We brought the car with almost all the new parts, so we don’t have to repair anything here, and thus rest as much as possible at night. The Dakar is consuming you day by day and rest is very important. Of that if I have a great experience.
At the beginning, the car was going incredibly well, suspensions, engine, navigation. We reached the finish line every day without too many breakages, but after having hit it hard in the early stages, the car began to complain of sheet metal, it had a blow to the nose that we could not repair properly and parts such as the hood, the hinges began to break radiator supports and the air filter box, which we had to go over very carefully every day. I thought many times that we would finish without a capo, but that was not the reason for our first scare that would take us out of the race.
It was in the fourth stage when at the start after recording some videos, I dropped my mobile and I didn’t know it until we finished the stage. It had to be recovered, and we were 180 km from where I thought it was. First there was the work to do on the car, checking levels, possible clearances, tightening screws, blowing, checking welds and checking that everything was perfect. For my part, I also had to check my insulin patches, change the cartridge, load the pump, make sure that the spare insulin is safe, a vital, priority and very important daily task.
Finished these tasks, and around 7:00 p.m. we decided to go look for the mobile. We spoke with the organization and went with the TOYOTA to look for it. It was not only the mobile, but also the bank card, videos, contacts, the Saudi card costing €100. We were separated by 180km to go and others to return. First I drove, and on the way back Jorge, we managed to find the starting point (not easy), and after almost 1 hour searching in the middle of the desert, with freezing cold and the light from our headlights, we gave up the search. Very sad and angry we decided to return to the camp. We needed to get some rest and prepare everything for the next day. Everything was going well, but just 2 km from the camp, which we could already see and hear, the fault light started flashing and the Toyota stopped. I was taking a nap, and Jorge woke me up with a start. The night closed completely.
We moved the car away and tried to stop someone to give us a push but there was no way. We called my wife and told her where we were and what happened. We needed to take the car to our service area to get it repaired, and leave the next day. It was 11:00 p.m. and a lot of people were sleeping, because the early risers in the Dakar are part of the race, we got up around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. Mer managed to talk to Marcel Quirós, and despite having the car unfinished, he quickly agreed to tow us, for which we are much more than grateful. This is part of the magic of the Dakar, the camaraderie and solidarity that is breathed so often between participants.
We set out to locate the fault, the diagnosis was a broken pipe in the 4th injector. At 3:00 in the morning, we managed to disassemble everything, but there was little we could do, nobody was going to have this piece, and it had to be changed. This pipe works at 1,500 bar pressure, and the area of the break made it impossible to weld. We had to think very quickly and make decisions. We knew that the next day we would not take the start, and also, that that day the camp would change, and we would stay in AL Qaisumah, no man’s land, when the promised land was Riyadh, where the camp would luckily be 4 days without moving, including a rest day.
We needed to transport GLUCOHETE to Riyadh as soon as possible. We went to bed, and when the sun set, we started looking for a crane that we got thanks to the organization, at a low cost of €500. It was 9 hours to Riyadh in an old tow truck without a turbo, stopping every 20 minutes for the driver who fell asleep on us. In the end, after much insistence, I managed to drive myself, and after 5 hours, we managed to reach Riyadh.
At 8:00 p.m. in the camp there was a frantic activity. We split up trying to find a solution, people turned to help us and advise us with a thousand and one solutions and ideas that we ordered. Someone left me a tube that had the same flanges as mine, it was very valuable, but there was still a piece missing, which we are still looking for all over Riyadh, almost an impossible mission, because in Saudi Arabia there is nothing Diesel, Gasoline is 1L at 0.43 cents euro, apart from that we had to find a workshop that would cut the tube and weld it. Emphasize here the great help received from the Merino brothers, who passed us the contact of a taxi driver, who, together with Admed, acted as a translator and guide in Riyadh. After many hours and kilometers, we managed to find a technician who masterfully welded the tube, and who, the very scoundrel, charged us the whopping amount of 10 Riyals, about €2 in exchange. A work of art, which deserved a good tip.
Very late, we rushed out to the VIVOUAC camp, and we started to assemble everything and see what would happen. Jorge was in charge of starting the car with the pleasant surprise of hearing again that heavenly music that our magnificent car used to give off. That melody tasted like glory to us. After those two hectic days, we were back in the race. The CLASSIC allows you to re-engage, although they give you a lot of race points, but the only thing that mattered to us was taking GLUCOHETE to the META, and continuing to show that with diabetes all dreams can be achieved, albeit with a lot of effort and dedication.
Day 7 of rest in Riyadh, not trusting the welding, we got up early, and after a good shower, I dyed my hair Blue again, (the color blue, together with a blue circle, represents all the people who suffer from diabetes of the world), and even with dirty clothes we went to the city, to try to look for the blessed piece that was missing, without success and giving up too late, returning defeated to the camp, and this time to rest and prepare for the new stage.
Stage 8. A joy to be back in the race, the car worked like a charm again, although there were parts that denoted a strong rattle due to fatigue. The hood seemed like we were going to lose it, its loose hinges caused a noise that made you not want to drive, luckily helmets attenuate many noises. The following stages ran smoothly, each day that passed we rode more at ease, the experience we were acquiring was brutal. Every day we were going faster and safer, while trying to manage our car better. Jorge also felt more comfortable and self-confident every day, which made us enjoy more and better. After the days of paperwork and verifications, the putting on track of the car, and the impromptu breakdown, everything was going to be perfect. The funny anecdote of the day was that when we reached the finish line, we went to refuel, and between haste and nerves, we put 75L of gasoline instead of diesel, and luckily, I realized that the smell was not normal, and After a difficult emptying of the tank, we solved it.
We were already approaching the coast, leaving the cold behind. Here it is winter and at night the cold is intense. The temperature was beginning to be more pleasant and we could rest better, an important mission, except for setbacks, just what happened to us in stage 10. About 11km from the finish line, the fault light came on again, right at the entrance to a river of sand, in a very curly and destroyed area, I noticed that I lost sensitivity in the pedal, and I no longer knew if it was the car. or was it me We went in quite hard, and the car suffered, it went into protection mode, and we could only go very, very slow in first gear. The sandbanks made it more difficult for us, but luckily we were soon able to get out onto harder terrain and continue to the finish line. After this new good scare and after investigating and checking, we blame the poor state of diesel. In the paddock, we discussed whether the fault would come from some SCV valve, which affected the injection pump, and which would have to be disassembled and cleaned, which is strange because these parts usually last 120,000 km without problems, and it was new.
Let’s get to work, and when trying to remove the terminal, I realize that one of the cables is broken and was hanging only from the plastic sheath itself, without passing current. Fixed. At that moment I knew that we would reach the finish line in this Dakar Rally, and closing a great race.
The days passed and each day we were closer to our goal, the finish podium. However, you can’t let your guard down for a second until you cross the finish line. In the last stage, we started with the intention of getting into the top 100, and it was not going to be easy at all. We started in 105th place, and we needed to nail the stage to recover those five positions, a fairly high risk, but we were in good spirits, and it was clear that we would achieve it, and we had to get rid of the thorn of the two days standing still. And so it was, the joy in the body came out of our monkey after crossing the finish line, we hugged, laughed, cried, it was a clash of many emotions together after such a long and hard year, and so much effort and work.
Everything was not finished yet, we were in Bisha, and we still had to drive and get to the city of Jeddah. We still had a long and hard journey of 680 km. In Jeddah is the F1 Circuit, where a few days ago Fernando Alonso made a great race, and there we would be awarded the coveted Dakar 2022 finisher medals.
We headed for Jeddah. Finding diesel in Saudi Arabia is not easy and it is not available at all gas stations. The organization marks it very well for us in the Roadbook, and we stopped at one of them that was packed with people, where we realized that there was a Burger next door, and after about 15 days without eating normal food, we stopped to eat some hamburgers with potatoes that tasted like glory. We finished eating, and the gas station was still with huge queues, so we decided to continue and refuel later. Error. This car was built for the Spanish Championship, and we were running a little tight on fuel. The surprise was that when arriving in Jeddah, the city was plunged into circulatory chaos, it was Friday, a holiday, people went out to spend the day in the desert, countryside, etc. Just two km from the finish line, the car started to fail, so Jorge and I started to feel super stressed. I still laugh when I think about it, even though I wasn’t laughing there. In the distance, I saw some gas oil bottles in a construction site, they were empty, and yes, Jorge told me. I responded bluntly, take them and we’ll see. Destiny wanted us to reach the finish line, both for us and for all the people with or without diabetes, friends, followers, sponsors, diabetics, sympathizers, collaborators, the media, and much more, who have placed their hopes and trust in that, once again, and for the second consecutive year, we were going to cross the Dakar finish line, and this time in a Classic car. And it was only a few meters from the finish, where a mother ship appeared before us, at the same time that the car stopped. It was fast refueling and entering the finish line.
In rallies, until you cross the paddock’s own arrival arch, it doesn’t end and if you don’t cross, it doesn’t count as having FINISHED it. Remember the famous case of Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya… CARLOS, TRY TO START IT… They broke the engine a few meters from the finish line, and it’s all over… NEVER GIVE UP. With the rubber from the car’s hydration system, and the bottle taken, we were able to get diesel from that huge supply truck that the organization arranged right there, and after a good gulp of diesel, we started again, and did what we had come to do at the Dakar, FINISH and go collect our well-deserved FINISHER medals from this DAKAR RALLYE 2022.
(Friend Jorge, I told you, we would reach the goal)
With a negative PCR Test, everything collected, the car in the port (and without diesel), we went to the Hotel where we took a well-deserved shower and were finally able to sleep in a decent bed.
The very quiet return flight until we reach Madrid. And of course, the Dakar 2023 begins here.
GAS AND INSULIN DO NOT MISS!
DANI ALBERO A DIABETIC IN THE DAKAR