Sunday was a sombre day for the Dakar family. Participants and organisers are in mourning after the announcement of the death of Dakar legend, Hubert Auriol. The news, which was made public after the completion of the seventh stage and the first part of the marathon, has come as a hard blow for the adventurer drivers.
In Sakaka, after crossing the finish line, they all received the communication of Auriol’s passing at 68 years of age in France. Born in Ethiopia in 1952, his death was attributed to “heart failure after a long illness”, according to the family as reported by the AFP agency.
Despite his delicate health, Auriol visited the bivouac in Riyadh in 2020, the first edition of the rally in Saudi Arabia, where he was reunited with numerous old acquaintances.
An icon of the toughest race in the world, the former driver took part in the inaugural edition in 1979 onboard his Yamaha. Just one season later he achieved his first stage win, a prelude to his first Dakar trophy that he would win the year after that (1981), spreading the champagne with the support of BMW.
Proving his success was not a one-time lucky occurrence, he repeated the feat in 1983. Although he will always be remembered for his unforgettable duels against Cyril Neuveux, in 1992 came the win that would open the doors of the rally Olympus for him.
Onboard a Mitsubishi Pajero that he shared with co-driver Philippe Monnet, he went down in history for becoming the first person to win the Dakar in both the car and motorcycle categories.” ]
A great adventurer
Nicknamed the African, his career was peppered with accomplishments… and not just in the world of motorsports. After fracturing both ankles in 1987, for instance, he embarked in an outlandish expedition together with Patrick Fourticq, Arthur Powell and Henri Pescarolo.
Its goal: to break the propeller plane round-the-world record which since 1938 belonged to the eccentric Howard Hughes, who invested three days, nineteen hours and fourteen minutes in the journey.
With a much improved ‘Lockheed L-18 Lodestar’ model, however, the group set a new time of 88 hours and 49 minutes, a record that remains unbeaten to the day.
Brilliant Dakar Director
Only two years earlier, in 1992, the appearance of GPS had revolutionized the way participants found their way in the desert. The innovative navigation system made the task a lot easier.
Besides the Dakar, Hubert also organized together with another Dakar winner, Jean-Louis Schelesser, the inaugural edition of the Africa Race. It was a clever move which took advantage of the cancellation of the Dakar following the threat of terrorist attacks, a threat that would forever remove the race from the continent.
An extremely versatile driver, Auriol also won five crowns of the Cross-Country World Cup, a feat that would also open the doors to the FIA Hall of Fame for him in 2019.
Visibly moved, current Dakar director, David Castera, spoke to the press on Sunday:
“He was the one who partly paved the way for me in the 80s. I followed him because my father was his mechanic. He is a person who has inspired me so I’m having trouble expressing how I feel today. I was lucky enough to contest my first Dakar with the number 100, a true icon ”.
Images of Hubert Auriol: Dakar.