First Paraplegic Racer in the Dakar Rally
The Dakar is an intense race, known for chewing up and spitting out the toughest of competitors, so to have a paraplegic participate seemed a bit farfetched. But not for one tough motor bike rider, Nicola Dutto – the first ever paraplegic to enter the Dakar Rally
Nicola Dutto is setting out to challenge all the typical stereotypes applied to paraplegics, proving that he is as able as any other able-bodied athlete to compete, and therefor landing himself in the history books for his amazing endeavors.
Nicola Dutto had been on the up, winning the 2008 and 2009 European Baja Championship and heading into the following season with his eyes on the main prize. But 2010 was going to be a very trying year for Dutto, with an accident in the Baja Championship severing his spine.
This accident left Dutto paralyzed from the navel down, with his balance badly affected as well – how do you race a motorbike with no balance, surely this would end his career? Not so, Dutto decided to begin a strict training regime not even none months after leaving hospital – to see if he could compete again. He shocked the racing community by entering the 2011 Baja 1000, in a four wheeled buggy, to test his own limitations.
Dutto learnt a few things from that race, he wasn’t keen on four wheels and he was certainly capable of competing. After nearly a year of research development and support from family and sponsors, Dutto had found himself back on a motorbike. The Baja Aragon 500km raid rally was the first challenge in his road towards the Dakar Rally, and this race he completed in 24th position.
The Dakar Rally
Dutto spent the following years in training for the Dakar, and 2019 was finally the year to attempt the race. And attempt he did, riding a specially modified KTM450 EXC-F, that had an added roll cage for additional protection, a harness to keep his legs in place and a modified rear brake added to the handlebars.
Dutto was assisted by three ghost riders, support crew there to assist in things like scoping out terrain ahead, checking for possible emergencies and assisting when he stopped his bike and have the fuel he needed to compete.
As expected, the Dakar was no easy race, held in the sandiest part of Peru they could find; the challenge was difficult for Dutto. Day 2 saw him crash and injure his ribs, with Day 3 saw him being dropped by an official at the starting line. Day 4 has led to Dutto exiting the race, but through no fault of his own – a series of miscommunications with race officials has led to this unfortunate early exit.
Though his Dakar Rally attempt is now over, Dutto has proven that assuming paraplegics have very definite limitations if archaic and incorrect. We can only expect bigger and better things from this amazing athlete in the future. If we were to bet on his future, I would place money on him winning big.