Road to Dakar 2022: Wolfgang Payr

Road to Dakar 2022: Wolfgang Payr

Using the bike’s own power, pushing, and pulling, we were deep in a rocky, slippery ravine trying to get a fallen Husky out. The steep incline made it near impossible to push the bike, and the slick rocks offered no purchase for our motocross boots and the bike’s tires. Even if we could get the bike out of the ravine, there’d still be the problem of a meter – high stone wall to get the motorcycle over; with just the three of us, it felt like mission impossible.

Road to Dakar 2022: Wolfgang Payr

Despite the situation that could potentially end his rally, Wolfgang showed no signs of distress. Just moments earlier, Wolfgang flew into a tight corner a tad too fast – his roadbook scroll switch had given out a few hours ago and he had to rely on manual scrolling, making it harder to navigate and ride – and had to jump off the bike as it careened off the track and down a deep, narrow ravine on the outside of the corner. Luckily, Wolfgang bounced right back up and wasn’t injured, but his Husaberg was hanging on a rock at an impossible angle, and the chances of getting the bike out and finish the stage looked slimmer and slimmer as the rain coated the rocks and boulders making them slippery and treacherous.

Road to Dakar 2022: Wolfgang Payr

“Ah, man, I only had two hundred meters till the end of the special stage finish!”, Wolfgang said, looking at his fallen bike. “But that’s what happens. This is a rally”, he brushed the accident off.

During rally races, keeping the morale high can often be harder than the riding itself – and Wolfgang certainly had that down. Austrian-born, Wolfgang has lived and worked all over the world, and when he began riding motorcycles off-road some ten years ago, he soon set his sights on rally racing.

“I’m not a very good rider – I started way too late, and when I began riding ten years ago, the Dakar seemed completely out of reach. Then, little by little, I built up my skills starting with enduro races, the basic Romaniacs classes, and then, eventually, the Africa Eco Race. Step by step, the vision of racing the Dakar started to take shape in my mind. Last year, I decided to go for it – I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the whole experience.

If you’re a passionate rider, the Dakar is the ultimate dream, and I’m just going to give it my best shot”, Wolfgang shares.

Road to Dakar 2022: Wolfgang Payr

He explains he’s not hoping to place well – it’s all about the finish, and rally racing is a lot more accessible than most people assume.

“A lot of people feel that rally races are out of reach for them, but that’s not true. You just need to start slow, practice as much as you can, get some roadbook navigation training, and you’ll get there. Enter rallies like the Greece Rally, Hellas Rally, events like that, and once you get a taste of it, you can then aim higher. Every rally race is a huge lesson – you learn exactly what you need to improve for the next event. Another thing that happens is, you realize you’re not the only one: other riders get lost, too, other riders crash, get exhausted, make mistakes… And then you realize, hey, they’re only human; if they can do it, so can you. Rallies are great for people who love motorcycles, and it’s not all about speed. Heck, go at your own speed.

You start slow, you build slow…and before you know it, you get to the Dakar”, Wolfgang shares.

For him, the Dinaric rally was a chance to get some more saddle time in before the big race in Saudi Arabia.

“This year, I’m just trying to get in as many kilometers as I can for the Dakar; I’ve done Olympia, the Hungarian Baja, now the Dinaric Rally, then Greece Rally, and the Morocco Desert Challenge. What really counts when preparing for the Dakar is the kilometers and hours you spend on the bike – not the gym, not workouts. So I’ve tried to put in as many miles as I could, and I also have to take what comes along – there aren’t that many events this year, so I’m doing whatever I can and I try to have as much variety as possible. Fast, technical, navigation – it’s all equally important. For the Dinaric Rally, my expectations are to ride safely but to improve my skills and get some good practice, go reasonably fast but not in danger of crashing out – I can’t afford any injuries now.

The hope for Dakar 2022 is to finish the rally. I want to give it my best shot and ride up that finish ramp; I’m really putting my mind into it, because you don’t just need the physical ability, you need the mental determination, too”, Wolfgang says.

I have a feeling he’s got the right attitude for Rally Dakar through and through. After we finally managed to pull his bike out of the ravine with the help of the ORGA car and some tow ropes, Wolfgang simply dusted himself off, laughed the accident off, bent back the dented bars, and rode off to finish the day’s special stage. Whatever comes next, make sure you follow Wolfgang’s adventures and cheer him on as he lines up at that start line of Rally Dakar in 2022:

Wolfgang Payr

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