GRANDVIEW, Mo. - No race, save for road-going classics like the Isle of Man, conjures the romance and danger of racing like the Dakar rally. But for the vast majority of riders, the closest they will ever get to Dakar is watching it from the comfort of their own couch.
Even for the few with required skills, organizing the travel, the support team and the tools to race the Dakar is a daunting task.
Freedom Cycles, a Top 100 Dealer in Grandview, Mo., has delivered a solution for anyone who's fantasized about racing the epic rally: Freedom Rally Racing, a turnkey rally support team that gives a racer everything he or she needs to survive the grueling Dakar: including a prepped KTM, a fully stocked race truck, a team of technicians and a manager to keep it all on track.
Freedom Rally Racing is the brainchild of dealership owner Mike Stanfield, who got the idea after attempting his first Dakar in 2011 -- at age 64. We asked Stanfield how Freedom Rally Racing has evolved into the business it is today.
DEALERNEWS: Where (and when) did the idea to create a race-support-for-hire come from?
Stanfield: I rode the Dakar in 2011 and shared a support truck with one of the Argentinian ATV riders. This was my first attempt at the Dakar, and it was important to be with someone [who] knew the local area.
PHOTO: Freedom Rally Racing's Michael Stanfield gets last-minute advice from team manager and lead mechanic Scott Spears before the start of the 2011 race.
On Day 6, unfortunately, I broke some bones in my foot and was unable to continue riding. I stopped riding [at] about 10 p.m., spent the night in the desert and was picked up by helicopter the following morning, about 9 a.m. I decided during the night that I had to attempt Dakar at least one more time and be in control of all aspects of the participation, from building the race bike to having our own support team and truck.
DEALERNEWS: Why the Dakar?
Stanfield: Why not? I have always done endurance-type riding. The Dakar is considered the ultimate challenge.
DEALERNEWS: What level of service can you offer riders?
Stanfield: We can offer the rider everything they need to compete in Dakar. We can either build a rally bike to their specifications (in combination withour team manager, Scott Spears, approving the ultimate design), or we can offer a KTM factory rally replica bike built to order.
PHOTO: Freedom Rally Racing's support truck provides team mechanics with the ability to do everything from basic maintenance to a complete engine rebuild.
DEALERNEWS: Do you offer your Dakar-ready bikes to customers in kit form, or is everything a custom build?
Stanfield: We can offer a factory KTM 450 Rally Replica, ready to race. This is the same bike that has won the Dakar the past two years. In fact, we have a new KTM 450RR that is available now for a rider or someone that wants a very limited production bike. We can also custom-build the bike to the customer's requirements.
DEALERNEWS: What does a racer need to do to get involved with your services?
Stanfield: If you are specifically speaking about participating in Dakar, the rider should have experience in endurance riding. Events like the Baja 500 and 1000 races or a Las Vegas-to-Reno-type race is helpful. The selection committee for the Dakar really expects the riders to have experience with rally racing, which is a problem for most [U.S.] riders because there is little offered in America. I got some experience by going to South America to ride rally races. There are also a number of races in Europe. It is also extremely helpful to attend navigation schools; special navigation training to understand and interpret the road book is a must.
DEALERNEWS: How much does this cost a racer?
Stanfield: To participate in the Dakar and having your own support crew, the basic support package is $20,000. You can rent a bike for $13,000 to $15,000. The entry fee for the motorcycle and rider is approximately $19,000, plus your travel expenses. You should plan on an overall budget in the $65,000 range. For many people, the way to rationalize this level of commitment is that they are taking their major holiday trip for the next 10 years all at once by spending three weeks at Dakar doing a race very few people attempt. (continued)