The Aldo Racing team is the only Canadian car entry in the 2012 Dakar rally.
1. If they beat the odds and make it to the finish line in Peru, they will be the first Canadians to do so in the car class.
2. Driver and team founder David Bensadoun, 41 and from Montreal, is a senior executive at Aldo shoes and son of the company founder. He’s also a long-time amateur touring car, rally and off-road motorcycle racer. Navigator and co-driver Patrick Beaulé, 36, also from Montreal, is a sales manager with motorcycle maker KTM. He recently retired from professional off-road motorcycle racing after winning most of the major Canadian events.
3. Bensadoun caught Dakar fever as a child, when the original route from Paris to Dakar in Senegal passed his uncle’s place in France while his family was visiting. “I’d be standing on the balcony and see all these weird trucks and cars and bikes go by.” After about 20 years of dreaming, he began four years ago to prepare for 2012. The Dakar is the ultimate dream for any off-road racer like Beaulé, but it remained out of reach until Bensadoun invited him into the navigator’s seat last year.
4. The Aldo Racing car is a bit of a Frankenstein built from disparate parts by Britain’s Rally Raid International, which has been refining its Desert Warrior Dakar vehicle for the past 15 years. The custom tube chassis was bespoke fit for Bensadoun’s 6-foot-5 frame. It runs a six-cylinder, 3-litre turbo diesel taken from the BMW X5 SUV that sends power through a ZF six-speed transmission to the four-wheel-drive system from a Land Rover Defender, with independently air-locking front and rear differentials. The 225-litre fuel tank provides a range of more than 2,000 kilometres, and Reiger suspension gives 12-inches of independent travel to each wheel. For all that, it costs about $150,000.
5. To get to the finish, the team will have to master disorienting navigational challenges, get over massive dunes, slog through talcum-soft sand, cross rocky plains and repair the inevitable breakdowns. But both say the biggest obstacle to reaching the end is to keep motivated over the 15 exhausting days. “If we’re discouraged, the best is that David and I are not discouraged at the same time,” Beaulé said, “so I can pump him back up, or he can pump me back up.”