Dakar 2017 – Joey Evans – Once paralysed, Joey Evans races to the finish

Everyone knows that the Dakar Rally is an extreme event. Even if this year’s race has been shortened by two days and a whole lot more stage mileage, it’s still an epic challenge for the fittest, fastest and most able racers.

And then you get a guy like South Africa’s Dakar superhero Joey Evans – a man who has come back from being paralysed in a racing accident in 2007 and today sets off into the last 64km of realising his incredible and seemingly impossible ‘Para to Dakar’ dream after clocking in to Friday’s final control at 3am Saturday morning. Such is the challenge of realizing an impossible dream….

“I remember looking at my body and not feeling my legs after that crash,” Evans recalled his disabling crash ten years ago. “I had two choices; to feel sorry for myself or to keep on fighting – so I fought. “The difficulty is that my body isn’t strong, but Dakar represents the full-circle – an accomplishment and the completion of my healing.”

“Joey lost the ability to walk after that crash, but despite a sand grain in a desert’s chance, he has learned to walk again,” brother Chris pointed out. “He does not have 100% function of his legs, so it’s a bigger challenge for him to do anything, but not only does he get by, he also cares for everyone too – he will always stop to help others during rallies – he has a heart of gold.”

Now ten days into Dakar 2017, Joey Evans has moved into the motorcycle top 100 and with two tough stages and Saturday’s 64km run to the finish in Buenos Aires, that impossible dream is rapidly becoming an incredible reality.

It has not been easy by any means – even the off days have been a challenge, but the resilient, ever cheerful superhero that Joey Evens is, simply keeps on smiling his way towards his dream. “The stage is cancelled today but we have to still ride over 600kms today to get to tomorrows start,” Evens reported on Wednesday. “I’m hoping to get some much needed rest.”

Joey has faced several additional challenges along the way too: “I’m a little worse for wear with a torn ligament on the inside of my left knee and generally fatigued and sore,” he reported from the rest day in La Paz on Sunday. “It’s been a tough week with my teammate Walter going out with bike problems on stage 4 and fellow South African David Thomas breaking his leg badly in a high speed crash on day 5. “Both guys were riding well and deserve to still be in the race – it can be so cruel!”

There was a poignant moment for Evans, who stopped to assist his fallen compatriot Thomas, when Thomas asked Joey to remove the sticker commemorating David’s late brother and in whose memory he was racing, and place it on Evans’ bike and carry it to the finish. “I’ll sort out that sticker – I’ll take it to the finish,” a tearful Evan assured Thomas before his pal was airlifted to hospital.

“I have 17-hour days followed by a 15-hour days with only 2 hours of sleep in between – I’ve definitely hit some new lows but I’m determined to finish this race no matter what,” Evens explained of the torrid conditions running towards the back of the Dakar bike pack among cars, trucks and quads as those leaders pass everyday, but he is as always appreciative of the huge support from home. “Thanks for all the prayers, awesome messages of support and phone calls we are receiving, I appreciate this all so much – it really has helped me through some of the worst of it!”

Now all that’s left is a 64km ride to the finish. Vasbyt Joey!