‘The ultimate test of man and machine’ couldn’t be a better description for the most extreme competition in the world: the Dakar Rally. We talk to Carlos Solano, the mechanic who supported the Honda Racing Team – officially as chief mechanic for Spain’s Joan Barreda – in 2018’s event. Peli Products was an Official Supplier of protective equipment for the Honda Racing Corporation Motor Team in this adventure.

“It was an incredible and unforgettable experience – and one that keeps you on your toes at all times,” says Carlos of the gruelling 15-day challenge that took place over 10,000 km of some of the harshest terrains across Peru, Argentina and Bolivia: “It really tests every aspect of the whole team’s driving and technical skills – as well as their mental and physical strengths- to the absolute extreme.”

In 2018’s Rally there were 14 stages that varied in distances from short runs up to 500-560 miles of rallying per day, putting a real strain on man and machine. Drivers and the team must navigate across deserts, mud, rocks and deal with extremes of temperatures and altitudes.

The support crew who help those driving and riding their way across South America play a crucial role in making it all happen, as it requires a certain dedication and technical expertise that you will not find in any other form of motorsport.

Carlos gives us a great insight into what was required of him to support this challenge:

“The most important things are focus and resilience. You have to ensure absolute attention to detail and not be distracted by the extreme working conditions.”

“As a member of the support team, it’s also important to understand what the drivers are facing mentally and physically.  I’m an ex-rally driver myself, so I can really understand the stresses and challenges that the drivers face, and of the critical situations that can result from mechanical failure” he says:

“It’s this first-hand experience that motivates me to provide the best support I can. But of course, ultimately it’s many years of training and experience that enable me to ensure that all technical aspects of the machine – in this case Barreda’s motorbike – are fully maintained, properly checked and reliably fixed at every stage of the race.”

One of the biggest challenges Carlos faces is “the safe shipment of suspension equipment, engines and repair kit. It’s essential that they arrive intact to minimise any safety issues”.

Carlos relies on Peli to help ensure this.  As an official supplier of the Honda Racing Corporation Motor Team in Dakar 2018, Peli supplied the team with a range of Peli Protector Cases to ensure the protection of motors and repair equipment as well as a range of Peli’s torches and headlamps to support the mechanics in their maintenance tasks.

“The Peli headlamps really helped me when performing maintenance jobs in low light” says Carlos, “and the Protector Cases gave me peace of mind when transporting essential and delicate kit. To have this level of reliability in such an extreme environment is a truly welcome relief.  As is the relief at the end of the race when all members of the team have competed safely and successfully. That’s truly the best part of the job.”

So what’s next for Carlos? “Another extreme rally, of course.”