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Brazilian duo’s Dakar hopes survive pirate assault on cargo ship carrying automotive

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All the things appeared prepared for Varela’s Dakar debut. A member of a standard Brazilian motorsport household, the South American Rally Raid champion was getting ready to compete for the primary time within the largest rally-raid on the planet, alongside navigator Bozzano, when the challenge suffered a critical blow. 

Throughout Christmas time together with his household in Brazil, Varela obtained information that the cargo ship carrying his Can-Am UTV to Dakar had been attacked by Houthi pirates within the Purple Sea area. 

The ship managed to flee the pirates, however to take action it needed to divert from its route, and was now going across the African continent en path to its ultimate vacation spot. This was going to extend the arrival time by 20 days, making the pair’s participation within the race unfeasible. 

The case was not an remoted incident. On the finish of 2023, the USA authorities introduced a world coalition to guard cargo ships within the area.

On 31 December, American helicopters engaged in battle with three vessels, killing ten crew members. 

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The Houthis are one of many principal forces within the civil conflict that started in 2012 in Yemen, the place forces supported by Saudi Arabia and Iran are opposed. One other banner that drives the Houthis is opposition to Israel, because of the conflict in opposition to Hamas. 

To keep away from the frustration of not competing within the Dakar, Rodrigo’s household started a race in opposition to time seeking a substitute automotive. The reply got here in Portugal. 

“We positioned a Can-Am in Portugal, owned by a driver who got here to Brazil to compete in Sertoes Rally with us,” stated Varela. “However we needed to make modifications and diversifications in a rush. Happily, it labored and we handed the Dakar inspection.”

Photograph by: Victor Eleutério

#416 Can-Am: Rodrigo Varela and Enio Bozzano

However because the spare elements have been additionally on the attacked ship, Varela and Bozzano’s issues didn’t finish there. 

“We nonetheless don’t have all of the elements we’ll want in the course of the Dakar, which requires a whole lot of upkeep. To do that, we’re relying on the assistance of different groups. The Dakar is a mixture of racing and journey. And this makes solidarity one in every of its most notable manufacturers. Individuals assist one another after they can.”

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Upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, Rodrigo started the arduous activity of discovering different tools to take part within the race, beginning with the facility generator. 

“Will probably be like this till the top,” he stated. “With the right planning, which we had earlier than the incident, it will have been very troublesome to compete within the race. However that’s what the Dakar is: you must overcome your self daily.”

And even with the issues, Varela and Bozzano had a stunning efficiency within the Prologue, which marked their official Dakar debut.

On the finish of Friday, the duo have been in fifth place among the many 36 UTVs registered to compete on this yr’s rally within the T4 class. On Saturday, they secured a stage win. 

“All the things labored,” he added. “This fifth place is a spectacular outcome given all of the tribulations that the group has been going by within the final ten days. 

“Congratulations to everybody. I thanks for the work, the late nights and for believing that we may do it.”

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