Interviewed By:  Jarette Petzer on ImStayingMedia

A 10-Year Journey to the Dakar Rally

Joey Evans’ dream had been to ride in the Dakar Rally, the most gruelling motorcyle race in the world. But he was 26 before he actually owned a motorcycle.  So what was Joey’s 10-year journey before he actually did race in the Dakar Rally? There were two major hurdles to overcome before he even made it to the start line, and we hear the amazing tale of how he overcame both.

First of all, only 150 bikers are accepted each year for the Dakar, so he first had to qualify.  Then Joey had to raise the R1.1 million to cover the costs of participating. 

The last thing he remembered was lying in the dirt

On 13 October 2007, Joey was coming in second place for The Roof of Africa Race.  He knew that winning this race was vital for his qualifying for the Dakar Rally.  But something dreadful happened and the last thing he remembered was lying in the dirt.  He came round with shattered teeth and no feeling in his legs.  His back was broken and his spinal cord crushed.  

So began the journey back to health

Joey had a major decision to make: to check out of life, or live and achieve his goals.  He decided that to keep going he had to take one day a time.  And there were times he could only take an hour at a time. 

The doctors gave him no chance of a full recovery, but one day he felt a flicker in his big toe. Eventually he started to learn to walk again, and through sheer determination Joey overcame the odds.

After nine years, the Dakar Rally beckoned once more. And he qualified!

Only 30% of people finish the Dakar Rally, and for a man with his disabilities it seemed impossible.  Yet for Joey, the challenge made him feel alive again and on 2 January 2017 he was on the starting line.  

Nine thousand kilometres with his handicap seemed beyond comprehension, but Joey recounts the adventures and misadventures – and a miracle – along the way. He hacked his way through this race, often lying last.

“And suddenly you find yourself finishing this thing you’ve got to do.”

“Day 12 I’ll remember my whole life,” Joey said.  “The advice applied to that race applies to the lockdown too.  We don’t know the end, but must ask ‘What can I do to improve myself?’  And suddenly you find yourself finishing this thing you’ve got to do.”

It was really incredible. Not so much the finish line, but back at OR Tambo with the family and friends who had supported me”.

 Ten years before things had looked very bad for Joey Evans.

“But that was just Chapter One.  Remember, if you are struggling with something, just break it up into manageable portions.” 

Miracles can happen.


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