Actor Charley Boorman obviously doesn't like his challenges to be easy. As if riding alongside close friend Ewan McGregor - while circumnavigating the globe on BMW R1150 GS Adventures during the highly successful Long Way Round television series - wasn't difficult enough, he now intends to enter the world's toughest motorsport event, the 2006 Telefónica Dakar Rally.
The UK production team responsible for the Long Way Round will plan and manage the project, and BMW Motorrad UK will be principle sponsor, provide competition motorcycles, technical support and off-road training.
Commenting on his challenge ahead, Charley said: "The Long Way Round was one of the hardest and most satisfying 'big trips' that I think every biker would like to achieve at some point in their lives. However, competing in the Dakar is really going to take me to another level."
Charley will team up with experienced Dakar competitor Simon Pavey and the team will ride BMW F650 GS Dakar machines. Although a novice at this type of event Charley will have the advantage of riding a relentlessly reliable single-cylinder motorcycle that has a successful and well proven Dakar history. Simon Pavey, his team-mate, is BMW's Off-Road Skills Course Chief Instructor and has completed the Dakar event three times.
In fact, Simon Pavey was the instructor that trained Charley during his preparation for Long Way Round and the two have already formed a close friendship: "It is quite a high request to ask any rider to compete in the Dakar and expect them to finish. However, I have been training with Charley for over six weeks now and we have a consistent programme in place. His basic riding ability is good and improves every day," said Simon. "The most important factor is that Charley wants to compete and has such great determination."
The Dakar event will test the team-mates' special relationship to the absolute limit. Simon's immediate task is to accelerate Charley's natural riding skills to a level good enough to tackle the toughest off-road riding in the world - and to conquer the infamous sand dunes of the scorching Sahara.
Starting on 31 December for the first time in Lisbon, the riders are scheduled to arrive in Dakar, Senegal 16 days later. Charley, Simon and their (as yet) unnamed teammate's main objective will be to simply finish the 6,000-mile event - a feat considered to be a challenge in itself. Out of 230 motorcyclists that started the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally only 104 bikes finished and the riding conditions were so uncompromisingly bad that the 2004 Rally is now regarded as one of the toughest ever.
Time Warner will publish a book of the Dakar project and a TV series of Charley's adventure will be broadcast on Sky One in 2006.