Classic motorcycles, custom bike builds, a crowd of rally-crazy riders, and old Paris-Dakar vibes: welcome to SWANK Sardinia Rally 2021, a five-day rally racing event in Italy. Starting in Milan and taking riders cross-country to Genoa, then boarding a ferry and continuing across the island of Sardinia, SWANK is a rally race to mark in your calendar. Organized by Renato Zocchi, a legendary Italian Paris-Dakar rider, world motocross champion, and winner of the Gibraltar Race (on a scooter, mind you) and Deus Ex Machina, a custom motorcycle builder out of Amsterdam, SWANK Sardinia Rally has grassroots in the classic Paris-Dakar races and an edgy attitude added by Deus.
With the prologue stage on the Malpensa motocross track – a quest in its own right at the best of days, a merciless challenge when covered in knee-deep mud – SWANK Sardinia saw almost two hundred participants aboard motorcycles ranging from old Cagiva Elephants and Yamaha Tenere 800’s to one-off, custom bike builds, DR350s, new Tenere 700s, scrambler-style dirt bikes, rally replicas, adventure and dual sports bikes, and just about everything in between. Along with the craziest bikes imaginable, the SWANK crowd was just as diverse: Franco Picco, the legendary Paris-Dakar rider, was joining the rally aboard his Tenere 700, while Alessandro Botturi, winner of the Africa Eco Race, rode his Yamaha racehorse.
“My goal with SWANK Sardinia Rally is to allow all riders, no matter who they are or what they ride, to experience the spirit of the old Paris-Dakar. Back in the day, you could line up at the Paris-Dakar start alongside legends like Gaston Rahier or Cyril Neveu as an equal – and this is what’s happening here at SWANK Sardinia. Complete newbies are starting together with Pico and Botturi, and in fact, a lot of the pro riders chose the SWANK Experience class rather than the Rally category. This race is about riding together, enjoying the rally, and celebrating the rally spirit together”, Renato Zocchi shared.
And as the rally progressed, it was clear Zocchi and Deus Ex Machina managed to achieve just that. Each day, riders tackled around three hundred kilometers of diverse terrain from Milan to Genoa and across Sardinia riding fast-flowing gravel roads, forest trails, rocky mountain paths, sand, hill climbs, and just about everything in between. Despite an intense pace, the riders could still take in the views, stop for Italian espresso, and even go for a dip in the turquoise blue Tyrrhenian Sea if they felt like it: the race was on, but it wasn’t about top speeds or rankings – instead, it was about camaraderie and the spirit of adventure.
SWANK Sardinia Rally is a cross-country race that carves out its own niche, atmosphere, and class. It’s open to pros, veterans, and amateurs alike, and everyone is welcome: whether you’re a dirt bike maniac, an adventure rider, a rally racer, a custom bike fanatic, or simply someone who loves riding dirt, this is the place to be. You can ride at your own pace, pick between the Vintage, Rally, or SWANK Experience classes, use roadbook or GPS, and enjoy the stunning Sardinian scenery and hospitality. And once you make it to the next bivouac, you’ll be able to chat with old Paris-Dakar legends, hear the crazy stories from the eighties, connect with modern-day rally racing stars, and meet riders from all walks of life. In short? SWANK Sardinia Rally is…home.