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Dream Racer: Review | The Rider’s Digest

It seems incongruous to evaluation a DVD that’s been on common release since 2012. Nevertheless, Dream Racer has just lately been nominated for an additional slew of documentary awards so as to add to the considerable quantity of recognition it has gained since its launch, and together with the fact that its background topic – the Dakar Rally – has, on the time of this assessment, just completed its 2016 iteration, that’s all of the excuse the Digest wants to try what is likely one of the great bike films.

Dakar Fever

Dream Racer is about then-39-year-old former motocrosser Christophe Barriere-Varju’s attempt on the 2010 Dakar Rally, and producer/director Simon Lee’s parallel ordeal in documenting it. There’s the general theme of ‘live your dream’ and so forth. that concerned me at first as a result of it is a theme that has been finished to demise in motorbike tradition and is something that this reviewer has lately turn out to be immunised from with respect to all that ‘biker spirituality‘ schtick and its use in marketing; but thankfully, Lee doesn’t bludgeon the viewer over the top with it, preferring to tell the story by letting it inform itself – letting the actions do the speaking, if you’ll. Strolling the stroll vs. speaking the speak.

A bit of background is so as on the protagonists and the event itself:

French-born Christophe Barriere-Varju spent his early life in West Africa’s Ivory Coast, and acquired into motocross at the age of 14, where he rapidly came to dominate and grow to be one of the region‘s star riders (under). For causes that aren’t elaborated upon within the film, he retired from MX, went to the USA to finish his schooling and ultimately, in his late-twenties, moved to Australia the place he now runs his own business consultancy.


It appears that evidently during this period of adult duty, the racing bug by no means left him (some bloke once stated ‘racing is living, the rest is just waiting’) and a while across the mid-2000s, Barriere began cultivating a want to get off-road again and to take on the Dakar Rally. It’s fascinating to notice that the movie acknowledges one earlier try by Barriere on the Dakar the previous yr (in 2009) which led to damage and retirement, but doesn’t mention his two entries in the ’proper’ Africa-based Dakar a number of years earlier. This omission makes the viewer assume that Barriere is less experienced on the event than he actually is. I assume it is to do with the licensing requirements that might be involved in displaying previous footage of the occasion and its impression on the movie‘s finances. That isn’t a criticism. All that information is accessible on the web [1].


I feel the omission is a shame although, as a result of Barriere’s interest in and obsession with the Dakar Rally is obvious when he says: “I love the desert – you feel like a small ant in the immensity of the landscape”. On this respect, Barriere is principally a disciple of the gospel of the late Thierry Sabine, the founding father of the original Paris-Dakar Rally with its epic traverses throughout the Sahara Desert that first ran in 1979. Sabine was well-known for romanticising the desert and for aiming the unique idea of his occasion squarely at newbie adventurers whom he absolutely anticipated to get lost out there in the Sahara and consequently share his imaginative and prescient. Throughout one of many rally’s early editions, Sabine was asked who he believed would win. His response summed him up: “the desert” [2]. I extremely advocate hitting YouTube for a number of hours and looking for clips of the rally through the years 1979-1989, since you gained’t consider it (keep in mind Mark Thatcher getting misplaced in 1982 and the way your complete Algerian military was mobilised to seek out him?).

Aficionados of the Dakar declare the original ethos and philosophy of the rally died along with Thierry Sabine when he was involved in a fatal helicopter accident through the 1986 occasion. In subsequent years, the ‘works teams’ began to notice the rally and the media coverage it attracted in France, bringing vast budgets, purpose-built hardware and army levels of logistics to the rally, so it stopped being an newbie’s occasion.

The rally’s presence within the nations of West Africa additionally turned untenable over time, as it was never capable of separate itself from the altering politics of the region. Numerous incidents involving armed assaults on rivals (and constant threats thereof) by militant groups ultimately pressured the rally to abandon the area altogether after 2008 in favour of South America and the terrain across the borders of Argentina and Chile, and latterly Peru and Bolivia. When you’re wondering why the rally retains the identify of a West African city, it’s as a result of if the occasion wasn’t referred to as the Dakar, then it wouldn’t be the Dakar. Within the 21st Century, the continuity of the model is every little thing.

Barriere’s motivation as an newbie entrant then, is intrinsic: he’s competing on this rally towards himself and correcting the injustice of having to retire the earlier yr (“I have to finish this race”). He’s also competing towards Western definitions of fulfilment and success. Regardless of confessing no affinity with the Buddhist statues that encompass his house, he lives like an ascetic by having nearly no furnishings – one of the consequences of orienting his complete life across the prospect of the Dakar. In truth his house is just a short-term base, selected due to its proximity to sand dunes for training on. Barriere’s ‘home’ is on the Dakar Rally itself, on the special stage, with no outdoors distractions.



Barriere allows nothing to deflect him from training and getting ready for his aim. The film begins some six months before the 2010 rally, where producer/director Simon Lee first turns into conscious of Barriere’s intentions. The two staff as much as make the film because at their core they’re motivated by the identical factor: the will to tick sure packing containers and to stop a life of Groundhog Days. When the choice is made, Barriere is up towards the Sisyphean process dealing with the lone novice entrant of elevating the huge finances required to do the rally, along with procuring a motorcycle to experience and its associated mass of spare elements (to not point out the price of getting it all shipped to Argentina), all while training his physique for the upcoming ordeal.

Lee is confronted with the job of obtaining backing for the film’s production – a niche, non-mainstream film if ever there was one. The place the two differ though, is that Barriere continues to make use of his enterprise consultancy in the attempt to acquire finance and sponsorship and does so with the entire single-mindedness described above and freed from external influence; whereas shortly after the delivery of his second youngster, Lee goes ‘all-in’ by quitting his promoting job to dedicate himself full-time to the cause, bringing his family along for the journey whether they like it or not. Does a man really have the correct to do one thing like that when he has duties beyond himself? The question is among the central tenets of the film, and you may imagine how properly Lee’s determination went down together with his family.

In the middle of these separate approaches to the same objective, the two virtually fall out quite a few occasions and commendably the movie doesn’t draw back from displaying these disagreements; and it is a change to see precisely how much arduous graft and self-belief it takes to do something like this and the way much battle it generates from non-believers, when a lot moto-adventure is depicted to occur spontaneously and inside an financial vacuum.

“Can You Ride Without Triceps?”

Barriere ultimately advantages from what these Buddhas round his house would call some ‘good karma‘ and suddenly it’s on, the finances is in place, he’s checking-in ten sets of tyres and all his spares as excess baggage on the airport and he’s on his approach to Buenos Aires for the start of the Dakar Rally.

The movie gets into its stride when the rally begins, but there’s an fascinating sequence earlier than the start of the rally where it becomes clear how large an enterprise the Dakar Rally now’s, as Barriere has to go through full days of form-filling, scrutineering, and even a class on methods to use the organiser-supplied GPS and the occasion’s street guide (that covers a 10,000-km route).


Barriere may have been not at all the rally’s only ‘one-man team’, however it’s an indicator of how the occasion has distanced itself from Thierry Sabine’s unique novice ideals and grow to be an enormous company machine. Does the rally’s presence in Chile and Argentina profit those nations and their populations? The large crowds of spectators that line the route definitely indicate a far higher degree of public interest in the rally in South America than it ever had in Africa, partly due to the apparent consideration of inhabitants density.

Commendably although, the film does not make any try and politicise the rally or assess its place on the earth (so neither will I) and is content material to depict a inhabitants that is clearly keen about it. The begin in Buenos Aires is a national holiday as a result of the rally all the time historically begins on New Yr’s Day, so the whole metropolis appears to end up for it. On the special levels, spectators bounce on crashed automobiles and return them to the street in seconds. In even probably the most remote elements of the route, individuals emerge from nowhere bearing Coke bottles filled with petrol to provide to stranded riders. Extra proof of the extent of interest within the rally is seen when Lee and freelance journo Jacob Black (who joins the crew initially and is there to do Barriere’s PR) lease ’the last hire automotive in Buenos Aires’, cover it in sponsors’ logos as a way to conform to the necessities for a press automotive, and are subsequently and steadily mistaken for rivals as they are mobbed in all places they cease for petrol.

The film is rightly targeted on Barriere’s rally and because it progresses he’s proven as a person in his aspect. Lee and Black then again are continuously wracked with self-doubt, with Lee particularly getting regular actuality checks from back house on Skype. We see their typically comical makes an attempt to keep up with the rally in their indefatigable hire automotive that was never meant to do 10,000 km in 16 days (P.J. O‘Rourke once said that the fastest car in the world is a hire car). Just as Barriere deals with fatigue, injury, sleep deprivation and the demands of being a one-man team in a rally that would be more civilised if the day was 29 hours long, Lee and Black are reduced to kipping in fields and parking outside houses so they can jack into unsecured WiFi in order to file reports and do Skype. They go on to risk hypoxia at 4,000 metres altitude in the Andes where Barriere briefly appears beside them on a road section like an oxygen-deprived hallucination. Their rally is as much of an adventure as Barriere’s they usually aren’t even on a motorcycle.


Barriere’s bike begins breaking underneath the relentless tempo and so does Barriere’s physique when horrendous spills are captured by helmet cam, so naturally he invokes the racer’s prerogative to disregard damage of any type, even when there isn’t a official end result at stake because he’s truly down within the bottom half of the leaderboard – at this degree the leaderboard is irrelevant and the one competitor is himself [sidebar: Hubert Auriol was the grand master of the pain threshold in 1987 when he continued to ride with both ankles broken. The footage of him arriving at the end of the stage this happened on his horrific. It is available on YouTube…].

For those who’re nonetheless in any doubt as to Barriere’s motivation behind this self-inflicted ordeal, there’s one priceless scene about two-thirds in where his joyous reaction to at least one specific section of a stage – the identical one he retired on the previous yr – tells you all the things you must find out about this film and its message, and should you nonetheless don’t get it and even disapprove, particularly on the rally’s finish, then you have got a coronary heart of stone.

Dream Racer is a wonderful film. Like all nice bike films, it isn’t about bikes at all and is as an alternative concerning the people who experience them. It is far better than On Any Sunday, which many nonetheless contemplate to be a ‘set text‘ and a recruitment film for bikers despite it being ancient. Dream Racer is better than TT: Closer To The Edge too because it doesn‘t seek to deify the event it features (although both films deal in the ‘live your dream‘ theme). It is not clear whether director Simon Lee is a biker himself, and if he isn’t then the film is all the higher for it as it doesn’t get bogged-down in tech-talk. Dream Racer’s message is such that the movie ought to be shown in faculties for instance of the facility of self-belief and as an antidote to an schooling system that encourages conformism and complacency.

The movie also provides appreciable protection to a rally that has a wealthy, eventful and controversial history that is value spending a while exploring. As to all of the arguments concerning the trendy Dakar Rally’s professionalism and commercialism versus its roots in novice adventuring, in Christophe Barriere-Varju and all the other self-financing one-man/lady groups that have entered it through the years, the basic novice’s Dakar nonetheless exists.

Thierry Sabine would have accredited of this film.

Stuart Jewkes

Further studying:

The Dream Racer web site.

The Dakar Rally homepage.

A downloadable PDF from the official Dakar homepage that details the rally’s history from 1979-2009.


[1] Interview with Christophe Barriere-Varju on MotorcycleUSA.com (14/5/15).

[2] Quote from the BBC4 documentary ‘Madness In The Desert – The Paris-Dakar Rally’.

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