EX-GP racer wins Dakar

Jur­gen van den Goor­bergh found fame in 500GPS by mak­ing im­prob­a­ble bikes do im­pos­si­ble things. Ten years on he’s still de­fy­ing the odds by win­ning Dakar

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - MICHAEL GUY MCN SPORTS EDI­TOR michael.guy@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

Dutch­man Jur­gen van den Goor­bergh may be 46 but he’s still win­ning races. The ex-500 GP star won the Malle Moto class in this year’s event, which means he had no team back-up and had to work on his own bike dur­ing the gru­elling two-week event. He fin­ished 31st over­all and reck­ons it’s his big­gest bik­ing achieve­ment yet.

He’s put an MZ on pole in 500GPS and gone from 13th to first in one lap on a 500cc Honda twin, yet Dutch­man Jur­gen van den Goor­bergh says his great­est rac­ing achieve­ment came at this year’s Dakar.

Rac­ing in the Malle Moto class, in which com­peti­tors re­ceive no out­side as­sis­tance and carry out all of their own main­te­nance, the 46-year-old won the class and fin­ished 31st over­all in the tor­tur­ous two-week 5000-mile event.

MCN caught up with the former GP rider to find out how and why he put it all on the line to race Dakar.

How did you get in­volved in Dakar rac­ing?

“When I fin­ished my rac­ing ca­reer I was a Miche­lin test rider for Yamaha and Valentino but I al­ways planned to do Dakar. Be­fore my first Dakar I pre­pared for two years. I did lots of en­duros (Erzberg, Ro­ma­ni­acs) and trained a lot do­ing mo­tocross with Ste­fan Everts. I was ready for the 2008 race but it got can­celled (due to a di­rect ter­ror­ist threat to the event) so by the time I started the 2009 race I was re­ally ready. I went with a good Honda team, rode well and fin­ished 17th over­all and was top rookie.

“I never ex­pected to fin­ish so high, but it didn’t be­come a goal to fight for the top 10. I knew how fast the top guys ride and how dan­ger­ous it is at the front and I didn’t know if I could do so well again. I got in­volved in a Buggy project and did the race twice be­fore be­com­ing a nav­i­ga­tor in a truck for one year.”

Why do you keep do­ing it?

“In 2015 I raced Malle Moto, but there was another rider, Thomas Berglund, who was bet­ter than me. I did not win so I had to come back! To win the Malle Moto this year was my goal. Com­pet­ing in Malle Moto is the ex­act op­po­site to my GP ca­reer where I had two fac­tory bikes and a team of 15 me­chan­ics. This year I was rac­ing with the fac­tory rid­ers who have a team of me­chan­ics and a mo­torhome to sleep in. When they’re go­ing to bed at 9pm my work starts, chang­ing tyres, oil, air fil­ter and check­ing the bike be­fore get­ting food, mark­ing up my road book and fi­nally pitch­ing my tent. I was pushed to the limit, men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

Why do you do Malle Moto?

“I class my­self as a good me­chanic. I have al­ways pre­pared my own bikes; work­ing on them is a hobby for me. In 2015 I fin­ished sec­ond which is why I had to come back in 2016. I was up against two very com­pet­i­tive rid­ers this year – one from Italy and one from Ar­gentina. In the first week we were neck-and-neck but the sec­ond week was much harder with the heat, dunes and nav­i­ga­tion. I have raced Dakar so many times now so I know how it works and as a re­sult I was able to take a lot of time out of them, some­times 15


or 30 min­utes on a stage. My goal was to win the class and fin­ish top 30; I ended up 31st.”

Just how hard was it?

“For the last three days I was on the limit and I slept for a to­tal of just nine hours in three nights. I was con­cen­trat­ing so hard and I could not have done another day. When I fin­ished the last stage I was ex­hausted but we still had to do a 400km li­ai­son to the fin­ish and the podium. I fell asleep three times, I only just made it and ar­rived re­ally late. Rac­ing Malle Moto is like do­ing two or maybe three Dakars with a team. Win­ning this race means I have achieved one of the big goals in my life. Rac­ing in Malle Moto is the high­est level of Dakar and en­durance. I’d swap the class win for a top five over­all, but I’d rather be Malle Moto cham­pion than have a solo top 10 fin­ish.”

What is the key to your suc­cess?

“My prepa­ra­tion, my fit­ness and I have learned to nav­i­gate well. Also I don’t crash. I had three crashes on the en­tire race, two in the sand and one on the gravel, but they were all low speed. I was un­in­jured and the bike was un­dam­aged. In Dakar you can­not af­ford to crash. If you crash you lose time and en­ergy. And if you lose time you end up at the back with the trucks and cars and that makes it very dif­fi­cult.”

Were you able to trans­fer any par­tic­u­lar skills from GP rac­ing to Dakar?

“Com­pared to grand prix rac­ing, I worked at the same level in terms of prepa­ra­tion. I knew the level nec­es­sary if I wanted to win or be on the podium – it is the same. The big dif­fer­ence is that in GPS you have to fo­cus for one hour - in Dakar it’s the same fo­cus but for 10 to 12 hours a day.

“The big­gest thing I took from GPS was rear wheel slid­ing and drift­ing, and I’m sure if you put Marc Mar­quez or Casey Stoner on a Dakar bike they’d be pretty im­pres­sive! I slide the bike with my feet on the pegs, most rid­ers put a foot down, I don’t – it’s the way I like to ride

“I also did tri­als from the age of four to 16 and it gives you a cer­tain bal­ance other rid­ers don’t have – it gives you an ad­van­tage.”

‘I was on the limit, I slept for a to­tal of just nine hours in

three nights’

The hard­est-earned tro­phy in Dakar rac­ing, Goor­bergh takes the Malle Moto crown Rid­ing the bike is only half of Goor­berghõs work Malle Moto class rules mean you have to pack your own tent away too

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