If you’ve ever been concerned that your age might be a barrier to setting off on an overland trip, let Franco Picco inspire you.
He scored a podium finish at the Dakar Rally back in 1985 and this year he returned to the world’s most prestigious rally raid with the simple aim of finishing. That’s no mean feat for anyone and he succeeded!
Born in Italy in October 1955, Franco does admittedly have a long and glorious racing past, which began in motocross, winning the 250cc National Junior Championship in ’76 and then the 500cc Italian Championship in 1978. He entered the ’85 Dakar as a test bed exercise to improve his sand riding skills and ended up leading much of the event that year, finishing in 3rd overall. Yamaha appreciated his efforts and he remained a Yamaha works rider in off-road raids until 1990.
“This new and exciting experience at the Dakar 2021 was for me both a blast from the past and a totally new experience: new location, new bike and new equipment including an airbag vest, which was mandatory for the first time this year. I got in contact with KLIM having experienced the quality of their technical equipment first-hand, I decided to ride in KLIM gear head to toe, including the airbag vest, of course.
Fortunately, I wasn’t involved in any serious accidents this year. But apparently the mandatory airbag averted far more serious consequences for those less fortunate than me. In fact, there were many crashes, so any progress in terms of security in our sport is very welcome.”
The 2021 Dakar took place in Saudi Arabia and was one of the toughest so far. Honda CRF450 Rallys took the first and second spot ridden by Kevin Benavides (Argentina) and Ricky Brabec (USA) respectively. Also taking a place on the podium was Britain’s Sam Sunderland on a KTM. The other British riders who finished were David Knight in 24th (Husqvarna) and Neil Hawker a privateer on his own KTM 450 Rally who finished a remarkable 37th. Neil works as an instructer with Simon Pavey at the BMW off-road school and it was his second time on the Dakar. All are fantastic achievements.