Manuel Lucchese: for Dakar, Mindset Is Everything

Manuel Lucchese: for Dakar, Mindset Is Everything

Manuel Lucchese, an Italian rally bike builder, 2016 Dakar Rally 3rd place winner of the Malle Moto class, rally and Baja rider, and entrepreneur, is best known in the rally community for his daredevil Dakar stunts and inspirational YouTube videos. As Manuel prepares for Dakar 2022, we caught up with him to chat about what matters most: the rally mindset.

For Manuel, mindset is the cornerstone of reaching his Dakar goals, and he advises fellow riders to first get their headspace right before attempting the world’s toughest rally race.

“Mindset is the key to success, and it’s made up of three essential parts: determination, consistency, and sacrifice. You need the determination to see yourself through, consistency to keep you going the entire year, and sacrifice to put aside some other things to reach that finish line.

Next up is creativity. That one comes up when we have a problem and can’t see a solution; at that point, creativity needs to kick in so you start thinking outside the box and find a way. For example, you can’t find the funds and sponsors for the Dakar. Are you going to give up? In 2012, I had no money and no assets, but I was aiming for the Dakar start line. I used crowdfunding; lots of people ridiculed me, but at the same time, a lot of people felt my passion and my determination and supported me. It had a big success and attracted media attention, and I was amazed at how many people from all over the world chose to back me.

It was a strange idea at the time, but don’t be afraid of strange ideas because thinking outside the box is exactly what will help you reach your goal”, Manuel shares.

-Manuel, what would you say to riders who dream of entering their first rally, but feel that the rally world is still very much exclusive, closed off, or intimidating?

Manuel Lucchese: Too often, people worry too much about what bike they need or the instruments they think they need to buy to enter rallies. It’s all much simpler than what you think. I entered my first ever rally aged fifteen on a 50cc enduro bike and rode with a hand roadbook holder and a bicycle odometer as a trip master (on a 50cc, you reach a maximum 75km/h, and bicycle odometers work until 100km/h, so that was fine with that bike). Obviously, the fuel capacity was not enough on the bike so I ran with my school backpack with two 2 liter water bottles of fuel (totally against the rules, but I simply wanted to race and couldn’t care less about getting disqualified, which luckily didn’t happen). I came in 55th overall not having a clue on how I got to the finish, as I couldn’t understand at what point of the roadbook I ever was.

Manuel Lucchese: for Dakar, Mindset Is Everything

Any bike is fine to try a Rally, and the most simple and cheap setup could be just an Android smartphone with the dedicated app to visualize the roadbook and work as a trip master. The other simple, universal, and cheap solution is the Handlebar Rally Kit which I even used to race Dakar and finish 3rd position in the Malles Moto class with a completely stock WR450F 2012 on Dakar 2016 so even the bike you don’t need the latest model or stuff like that.

– Realistically, what skill level should people have to enter a mid-level, European rally race (like Hellas Rally Raid for example)? 

Manuel Lucchese: They should be able to ride at least in some local enduro event to be sure they have the minimum skill to go on rocks and uphill climbs without getting stuck.

– If you’re just starting out and doing your first rally, can you go malle moto?

Manuel Lucchese: No. I know that often, people see me as the Malle Moto guy and now, I am, but to get to that point, for the first part of my career, I raced with a mechanic (I used to race as a Kawasaki Italy Factory rider after my first season racing with my 50cc at 15 years old in the national championship, then Factory Husaberg Rider from 2009 to 2012). I built lots of experience and confidence racing in the World Rallies Championship and National championship several years before going Malle Moto. This is important because the first step in rallies is getting confident and have the skills of not having tension or fear of getting stuck in the dunes and the like. Once you have the confidence that your riding skills are good enough – as well as your mechanical ones – and you have properly learned how a rally works, then you are ready to go Malle Moto being sure that you will be successful. Things need to be done in steps!

For more rally inspiration, practical tips, and advice, follow Manuel on his YouTube channel and watch this space – we’ll be talking to Manuel on a regular basis!

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