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Calgary's Matt Campbell becomes 2nd Canadian ever finishing the Dakar

From El Martillo Racing

The Dakar has many histories to tell and many records to beat, in the 2014 edition, Matt Campbell from el Martillo Racing became just the second Canadian racer ever finishing the Dakar Rally, the most amazing and challenging off road race in the world.

Campbell, 62, started racing in the Baja California Sur, Mexico peninsula three years ago, and maybe he never though he and his team would get that far.

The Calgarian racer built a team and a race car especially for the Dakar and participated thinking in three basic goals: firstly: finish; secondly: get a podium and third: to be in the Top 20.

For a “rookie” in a race like this but not a rookie in real life, Campbell knew what it takes to be competitive in this event, so he did all in his hands to set up a team to get at least the first of those three goals he had in mind… “My entire life has prepared me for the Dakar Challenge. I’m a competitor” Matt Campbell said.

Dakar Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell (Photo: Photo: El Martillo Racing)

After a rough, nasty, grueling two-week race, with two times just at the edge to abandon the competition, Campbell and his two Mexicans crewmember Luis Ramirez and Nicolas Ambriz made it to the end and became a finisher, second place in his class and the second Canadian driver ever achieving to finish the Dakar Rally in 37 years.

After that amazing adventure, Matt shares some of his impressions about the race he conquered from January the 5th to the 18th.

Question: Mr. Campbell, when was the most difficult moment of the race for you?
Campbell: “Stage five when we had the second clutch failure in the dunes and the temperatures were +50C and we had no spare clutch with us and then spent the next 36 hours meeting our start times and still had to change the clutch on the track before the rest of the day. When we finally started into the 6th stage late at night with lightning in the mountains I feared there was going to be a major rainstorm and was concerned about flash floods in the Arroyos”.

Q: Did you think the team would not make it? When?
Never—but the issue is some things are beyond your control, but I knew if we had a half a chance we could overcome the technical and mechanical issues, just running out of time is what naturally finishes you off.

Q: Which was the stage you enjoyed the most?
Every stage that we did not have clutch problems!! And even then the support and encouragement from everyone, other racers, on site fans, and the huge online fan community. The challenge of each different stage is an enjoyment, be it hot, dunes, stuck, regular breakdowns, the fan support really kept our spirits up, the fans in South America are the best!

Q: How you find different the Dakar to the Baja Sur races?
The big difference is fan behavior, there seems to be very little drinking in South America vs. Baja, it is really pretty scary in Baja with the fans who drink so much and being so close to the track. And while the track is really no rougher the two big differences are the Fesh Fesh or Talc and the dunes.

Then naturally the day after day after day is something we do not do in Baja, here we race a day and fix for a month, The Dakar you race day after day and fix the car night after night. The crews really got tired.

Q: What did you feel when you and the team were in the podium?
A great achievement for each and every one on the team. With Dakar everyone is so important to the successful outcome and everyone works so hard, one missing link in that chain of the team and you will not complete.

I cannot emphasize how pleased I was that the entire team stayed intact, no one quit and sure there was stress but everyone stayed a true professional to the end. Half the Dakar is between the ears.