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Dakar 2006
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TransOrientale Rally


  • James will be competing as entrant #132
  • James Embro is competing in the 2006 Paris to Dakar race.  Check back here often for updates to his progress and accomplishments.  I hope to have new content each day!

James making final preparations before the trip overseas.

James in Lisbon before start of rally.

Elmer Symons - James' mechanic.

Click the image for a link to the Official Dakar website.  Select the English version, then click on the Tracking Positions link at the top portion of the page to track in real time.  Choose competitors by name or number.

Click the image for a link to the maps and information for each of the 15 stages of the rally.

Click the image for an interactive map of each stage

James' mechanic Elmer will share this support vehicle with the Team Rally Pan America.    http://www.rallypanam.com/                                      


This will be quite an adventure for the support teams as well.

Click the eye for a link to more Dakar Coverage and an iTunes Podcast link with Dakar coverage.  Pretty cool!

12/30/2005:  I got a few emails from James' wife Jackie and sister Alicia with reports from the team's progress with bike prep and getting the bike through "scrutineering".  I suppose this is something similar to what we call Tech Inspection to insure the vehicles meet safety and sponsorship requirements.  At any rate, here's the news:  James and Elmer have been working around the clock working on the bikes and last minute details in preparation for scrutineering and the start of the race;  Kenny Hardee will be with James the first two stages, day 1 and 2 all the
way to Malaga.  Elmer however will be going to Portimao and catching a ferry
for support vehicles, then meeting up with James on day three in Africa. James will sleep on a ship at the end of day two (Jan. 1st) to travel into Africa;  3:13 P.M.  Bike is turned in to impound and riders' meetings will be tonight.  Start tomorrow will be 2:00 A.M. our time(time there is five hours ahead of our time) so he will be leaving at around 7:00 A.M. their time;  

                           12/31/2005-As of 7:53 A.M. this morning, James has covered 30 kilometers of the course.  This is the liason or transport section of today's stage.  The special section begins at 186 km and is 83 km long. Then he has another liason section of 101 km to the end.  Total distance for the day is 370 km or 230 miles.  Remember, a kilometer is equal to approximately .62 miles.  A simple converter can be found at this URL:     http://www.tdiclub.com/misc/conversions.html   Or you can simply multiply the km by .61 to get the mileage.

12/31/2005 - 7:00 P.M. - James has finished the first stage in 1:53:37, 55:27 behind the first bike piloted by Cyril Despres (KTM) with a time of 58:10.  James' comments on the section indicate that it was very muddy, wet and rutted.  His finish places him in 227th place out of 232 riders that started the stage.  Today's stage required no navigation in the special test section, more like a huge enduro special test.  Tomorrow's stage of 236 miles will be much more challenging and the total mileage for the entire stage will be about 346 miles.  He will start in Portugal and finish in Spain.       On another note, several other Americans competing in the Dakar on bikes finished as follows:  Andy Grider(KTM) 23rd, Chirs Blais(KTM) 31st;  Team Rally PanAmerican -  Jonah Street (KTM) 13th, Charlie Rauseo (KTM) 72nd, Mike Krynock (KTM) 89th. This team chose to use the KTM 525 converted to rally trim instead of the tried and proven 660 rally bike.  Time will tell if the choice was a wise one.      The Harley powered sidecar team of Whitney and McDowell finished the first stage at position 213 .  REMEMBER, tomorrow 01/01/06 the highlights will be shown on OLN at 4:00 P.M. (Entire Schedule here:  Dakar on TV  ) For those of us that have JJE/SSC Team Racing Shirts, be sure to wear them each day possible to show support for James.  Stay tuned for more info as available.  Also, thanks to Jackie, Alicia and others for updating me with information!

01/01/2006 - 7:50 A.M. - At this time the iritrack system indicates that James has completed only about 5.5 miles , but the system seems to be behind the rider's progress somewhat.  Today's stage is 237 miles total with a special test of 70 miles.  The stage is described by the organizers as a fast and mountainous track not unlike the Pikes Peak climb in Colorado.  Portugal native rider Ruben Faria was first today with a time of 1:37:07.  More news to come later today.  9:45 A.M. The results now show that James has finished in position 153 with a time of 2:06:18. ONLY 29:11 behind the winner.  A considerably improved position over yesterday in today's longer special test. This moves his overall position up to 205. Also, corrected scoring for yesterday's first stage improve his finish from 227 to 218 out of 232 riders that started the stage. More news as it becomes available.  Don't forget to check out the TV coverage today at 4:00 P.M. on OLN!

01/02/2006 - 10:00 A.M. - James has finished his third stage today in position 118 in a time of 4:38:09 only 1:16:58 behind the first finisher.  This improves his overall standing to 143, an improvement of 62 positions from yesterday.  Today's stage included a special section of 191 miles within a total stage of 410 miles.  Today's stage was a much more difficult stage in terms of navigation and terrain in the special stage, described by the organization as consisting of wadis  ??   see definition for information on wadis.  Seems like it could be dry river beds or oaisis.  More info to come when I receive word from Jackie.  Remember OLN TV coverage again today at 4:00 P.M.  ALSO, if anyone finds more information or links to pictures or reports from the rally, please let me know if you would like for it to be posted here or shared with those on the mailing list.  I am updating the mailing list daily as new requests are received.  Another rally website I have found with some info and pictures can be found here Marathonrally .  Still no pictures of James yet, but I know he will be seen soon.

Other Americans competing had much improved results today too.  Andy Grider is currently shown as having finished 2nd only 3:04 behind first; Chris Blais finished 9th 6:55 behind;  and Robby Gordon in the Hummer H3 has finished in 5th place today just 1:30 behind the first place finisher. 

01/03/2006 - 11:45 A.M.  ---   Amazing news today from the rally. ----  According to current standings for today's stage, James has finished at position 37 with a time of 5:31:32 just 1:18:31 behind the first place finisher.  This moves him into the overall position 90 with a total time for all stages so far of 14:09:36, 3:51:39 behind the leader! Today's stage special test was 235 miles and a total miles of 390 including the liasons. See more news and a new photo album on the SSC website at Dakar-SSC-2006    I have managed to obtain some photos of the pre-race preparations and european stages.  Hopefully more will follow. Thanks to the NomadsMotorcycle ClubPortugal for pre-race assistance and posting the pictures of the first two stages.

01/04/2006 - 11:00 A.M. - James continues to impress and improve with each stage.  Today's stage consisted of 213 miles in the special test, with 500 miles overall.  His finishing position for this stage was 44, 1:21:32 behind the first finisher.  This moves him into 65th overall for the rally. Kevin Heath finished 45th just 10 seconds behind James and moves into postion 84 for the rally.  James has moved up 162 positions since the first stage and is becoming more comfortable on the bike and with the terrain.  Elmer, his mechanic, has been making changes to the setup and has improved the handling a lot.

01/04/2006 - 5:00 P.M.  - Word just came in from Alicia (James' sister) from a conversation Jackie had with James today.  "Jackie just heard from James and here are his descriptions of stage 5: This section was extremely rocky and therefore, quite dangerous.  He said he had never ridden in such rocky conditions.  The 450's passed quickly because they could maneauvor better than the bigger bikes.  It was a beautiful ride.  Through the faster section there were 5-7 foot drop offs.  Thought he would crach a few times but DID NOT!  Yea!  James said Elmer is doing a great job for him....Each time he comes into the bivaouc his tent is set up and food is laid out for him, then Elmer goes to work on the bike.  He sends his thanks to all who are tracking his progress and he appreciates your prayers for he and Elmer. I would imagine this section really took it out of James for having to concentrate so much on the rocks and dangerous drop offs.  Please continue to keep him in your prayers.  Not sure what his starting time is for Stage 6.  We'll find out a little later and let you know."

Here's a link to a Dakar Dictionary with explanations of some of the terms used in coverage of this event.  Very helpful for us Dakar noobs!

01/05/2006 - 16:00 hours - James again helps himself out with a considerable improvement in his overall standing, now 53rd overall.  Today his 28th place finish is remarkable given the reported difficulty of this special stage.  With the first bikes leaving on the liason at 1:40 in the morning their time, and having to travel 205 miles just to get to the special test.  The special test was 271 miles with widely varying terrain beginning with wide fast tracks, then changing to more sandy technical tracks with washouts, holes, etc.  An excerpt of James' conversation with his sister Alicia shows a more accurate assessment of the stage:  "Beginning of course was very technical, however, lots of wide open areas, he got tired of holding the throttle wide open.  He had fun
in the dunes.  He had to stop at the top of a dune to avoid hitting another
rider and when he did he had to flip the bike back around and plummeted 15
feet, however did not crash and the bike took the impact beautifully.  At
some point kids were grabbing at him on the bike as he rode through the
villages.  As he entered Mauritania he rode down a narrow, foggy, rocky road
and every 2-3 hundred KM there were torches lit along the side of the road. 
He described it as very eerie.  Guards in the town of Ziuerat carry machine
guns.  He said overall the bike is running well and he feels great!  He said
to tell everyone hello and thank you for following his progress.  Stage 7-
Ziuerat to Atar 1st bikes out at 7:20 am his time.  He will probably be
alittle behind that time.  He should get a good bit of rest today.  (2) more
stages before Rest Day!"
    Stay tuned for more details each day.   I'm still looking for more pictures of James for the photo album.  It any of you find some, please point me to them or send them to me and I'll get them posted.

01/06/2006 - 8:30 A.M. - The starting order for the bikes was reversed today, so James started at 7:56 A.M. in position 144 and his friend Kevin Heath started four minutes ahead in position 128.  Kevin had a fall today and reportedly has broken his arm.  James stayed with him for a while unitl other help arrived.  James arrived at checkpoint one, a gas stop at 12:31 P.M. and is currently between CP1 and CP 2.  This stage was reported to be very difficult with most of the stage in the special test section.  Navigational skills will be tested and again the terrain will vary widely from dunes, to stony plateaus, to camel grass sections.  Several cars have already gotten lost and lost time.   Only about 13.5 miles of this stage is liason. The special section is 305 miles long.  Stay tuned for James' finishing position later today.  UPDATE:  14:05 P.M. our time - For the latest on Kevin Heath, go to his home page at:
 http://www.kevinsmidlifecrisis.com/dakar06.htm
Sad news, but he will be O.K. and ride again.  James must still be out on the stage.  More to come.
01/06/2006 - 4:00 P.M. - Well, James in finally showing up in the tracking system as having finished in position 101 with a total time of 11:17:45 for the stage.  The tracking system on James' bike must have been damaged in one of the two crashes he experienced today, so it was a little late getting updated.  His overall position is now 64th.  Here's an excerpt of a conversation James had with Jackie after he finished:  "Some of the news today was that it was extremely rough.  About 17 km into the race, his bike was full of gas, very heavy - riding in dunes with camel
grass - his bike went straight up into the air.  He jumped off, was not
hurt, but spent over 40 minutes taking the front end off, and I assume
putting it back together.  At 57 km, he came across Kevin Heath who had
broken an arm and had blood all over his face - stayed with him until the
helicopter arrived.  He crashed again around 150km where he hit his chest on
the handle bars.  He thinks that's where he lost his iritrack system. 
Again, he reiterated that he was not hurt.
He said the race was really screwed up today, because they did a "reverse
start".  That allowed all of the slower riders to start first and he ended
up riding with the cars and trucks.  He said that today was the first day
that he actually felt tired.  He was going to get something to eat, and try
to rest.  He said that people were working on the bike now, putting the
iritrack system back on the bike.  He does not know his start time for
tomorrow yet, but will try to call me later.

Even though he sounded tired, he still sounded good.  Just said he needed
some food and rest.
At the end of the conversation, he even told me that he felt great.  Just
glad to know that he is not injured from the crashes.  Please, please
reiterate to everyone to remember him in their prayers.  Thanks again.


The Dakar website now shows James as finishing in 67th position with a time of 8:57:46.  This moves him into the overall of 57th place.  Now he has a rest day tomorrow and will resume with Stage 9 on Monday January 9.  Nouakchott to Kiffa.  Stay tuned. Tonight's standings on the Dakar website show James standings have improved. He finished 36th in the stage and has moved up to 48th position overall even with a 15 minute penalty imposed.


Stage 9 will include the rally's longest special of 365 miles.  Total mileage including the liasons will be 533 miles. 


  01/08/06 - I received a voice mail from James today and he called several members of the club today.  He was in great spirits and expressed his appreciation for all the prayers and support being given.  Audio file linked here:   Audio  He is still positioned as the third American in the bike category, an enormous feat given that this is his first time there!  The stage he will face tomorrow will probably be the most difficult of the entire rally, so keep James in your prayers and check back for more information.  We did find a link to a commercial photographer who is offering photos for sale on the internet.  The URL for the site is:  http://www.maindruphoto.com/maindruweb/2048/index_flash.asp   You will have to choose the event and enter James number (132) to see the thumbnails of the photographs.

01/09/06 - 8:00 P.M. - If any of you have been checking the Dakar website today, you already know that tragedy struck for one of James' fellow competitors.   Andy Caldecott, 41, PHOTO of the KTM Repsol team crashed and was killed instantly today in Stage 9.  Today also saw the retirement of Isidre Esteve, who was taken to hospital in Nouakchott following an accident. As you may know this is the same stage that last year claimed the life of Fabrizio Meoni.  No special timed section for the bikers tomorrow".  The stage planned on January the 10th between Kiffa and Kayes will be covered in liaison from start to finish for the bike race."
Indeed, the organisers, the teams, the bikers and the bike race officials that gathered together after the day’s stage have decided to neutralise stage 10 as a tribute to Andy Caldecott who passed away today during the special that was covered between Nouakchott and Kiffa."  

James' finishing position is listed currently as 102 for the stage.  His time is the same as all competitors in the bike category from position 87 through 119 (18:00:00). His overall position now stands at 76, with 1:15 penalty.   James called Jackie a few minutes and let her know he was alright, but STILL on the course.  He should finish soon in what is probably only a transport section to the end.   He had spent quite a bit of time assisting another rider (#120) with mechanical issues and they are riding out together. Quite a long day for him since he started at about 7:40 a.m. his time.  They are five hours ahead of us now.   Keep James, his family, and all the competitors in your prayers.  I am back at work this week and updates will be later in the day than they have been up to this point, but I'll keep leaving updates here when I get them.  Regards,  Ben

01/10/2006 - 9:00 P.M. - I received an email today from James' sister Alicia with details from a conversation Jackie had with James concerning his finish of Stage 9 and Stage 10:

"Jackie finally had conversation with James today regarding stage 9.
I am going to try and relate James' description of his experience on the
course yesterday.  Let me just start by saying my words will not adequately
describe the level of emotion that James felt and is feeling about this day.
The term he used to describe the stage overall was a "death march".  James
stopped to help his friend Tom Classen (rider #120) who was broken down.  He
stayed with Tom for about 3 1/2 hours flagging trucks away and trying to
repair Tom's bike.  Around midnight (his time) they determined the bike
could not be fixed.  James went on.  At this point he only had 30 KM left of
the special and then 245 KM on roadway to Kiffa.  However, the course was so
rutted out; unbelievably impassable that the bike would not go through it;
the bike was overheating.  He had to get off the main course where all
others had travelled and try to navigate around the main track and get to
the paved section.  His bike got stuck and he spent over 45 minutes getting
it out.  He was so mentally and physically exhausted that he started to call
Jackie and say this is it.  I'm finished.  He thought about just sleeping
right there.  During this time he kept thinking about Andy Caldecott.
Apparently James had met Andy and had his picture taken with him. He prayed
and thought about what to do.  He saw a light @ 2 KM in the distance and
kept focusing on the light and rode toward it.  He found a group of
Italian's camping and spectating the race.  These people were so nice to
him; fed him, gave him water, treated him like he was a hero. He left them
and found his way out of the dunes to the paved road where he had 245 Km to
go.  He was extremely sleepy and constantly fading off as he was riding.  He
said he thought I am riding to survive.  Finally @ 4:15 am his time he made
it to Kiffa.  He slept about 2-3 hours and started stage 10 @ 10:00am his
time.

Today, Tuesday- Stage 10:

Rode slow and easy.  As you know, no timed sections.  I imagine today was a
lot like a trail ride.  However, without the excitemnet that James would
normally exibit.  Several times riders just stopped along the course, I'm
sure to converse with one another.  Riders were mourning the loss of Andy.

James thinks his start time for stage 11 is 7:00am.  Please continue to pray
for James as tomorrow holds a 231 KM special.  Although, the terrain should
be more enjoyable and a little more like what he is accustomed to.  He said
from this stage forward he is going to treat the rest of the rallye as a
"trail ride at Herb's."

Thank you Ben for posting this.  James wants everyone to know how much he
appreciates their love and concern for he and his family.

Tomorrow's Stage will consist of a special test of 141 miles within a total of 430 miles.  Description of the stage:  "the caravan progresses through a sumptuous setting, with a continuous sequence of forests and savannas. As the tracks are narrow, extreme care is recommended in the eventuality of any navigational error requiring a u-turn."  Hopefully the dunes are behind them for the most part and James can ride in a more familiar setting.

No standings posted yet for Stage 10, and I don't know how they will score the bikes in that stage anyway.  Standings as of the end of Stage 9 are below.  Still an amazing accomplishment!


01/11/06 - today James did not give much description of his ride other than
that it was extremely dusty even on the liason/connection track.  The only
animals he saw were donkeys and cows. He did say that he is very tired.  He will call later to let us know what his start time is for stage 12.  As you
know, this is the "marathon" stage where no assistance vehicles will be
allowed at the bivoauc.  So it sounds like he will ride 1469 KM/892 miles
without the aid of his support/Elmer. I would imagine that even mentally, that will be a challenge.  However, only 3 more stages and he is there!
Dakar here he comes.... Go James! We are all so proud of you!

Stage 12,   Jan. 12, 2006

Hi Ben,

Just got off the phone with James, he said that here is something that you
can post on the website:
Try to imagine spoolin up a Harley Davidson super glide to 100 mph... purposely, imagine a violent head shake, carerfully not to back off throttle because it's really out of control.  Let it swap 90 degrees left and then right 2 to 3 times and then try to get it back under control.   This happens 3 to 4 times a day. Also, just to let you know, the first time that I talked with him, his first words were "one more day down".  He described today's course as extremely dangerous, and says he can't wait to get out of that "hell hole". He got to see a little of the TV coverage at the bivouac, and said that the TV makes it a lot prettier than it actually is.   He said that the bike is so heavy and big, he crashed twice today for no reason.  Once, the bike actually just threw him to the ground.  Some man came out of the woods and helped him pick it up.  Also once he reached the village, about 200,000 people were lined up with a 5 ft. corridor, just touching, pushing, and trying to pull him off the bike.  He said the people were shouting and yelling for them.  However, they seemed to be clean and happy people wearing colorful clothes.  He also said that at one point he thought of David Croot because there were about 400 turns in a 20 mile distance, that would really be David's style of riding.  He is still just trying to take it easy, and finish each day.  His start
time is around 8:30- 9:00 his time for stage 13.  Please ask everyone to
continue to pray for him until he reaches safely to Atlanta.

Don't forget about the link mentioned a few days ago to pictures of James posted on the web.  This site www.maindruphoto.com has new photos each day.  They are only thumbnails but they give you an idea of the type of terrain James is traveling through each day.    Stay Tuned.

01/13/2006 - James called me today around 1:00 p.m. our time.  He seemed to be in good spirits and ready to continue to the last two stages.  James said that today's course was very
technical.  Again, he referred to the bike as a Harley.  He said to imagine riding a Harley in an enduro for 350 miles.  He also said the terrain was a lot like riding in Tellico Plains, TN - very mountainous.  Also the rear sub frame broke again from stress and he had to carry an additional 50 lbs on his body.  Elmer is already in the process of repairing the bike for
tomorrow's stage.  He mentioned that he had just one more major day left...  He's still doing very well, finishing Stage 13 in 62nd position.  His overall is now 60th.


Tomorrow James will arrive in Dakar.  The stage is described as follows: "Along the Senegalese tracks, co-drivers will once again be on call. The special is longer than last year’s and numerous changes in direction might lead those who are not focused up the wrong road. In other words, there are still minutes up for grabs or which can be lost. After an attractive liaison stretch, entry into Dakar will take in a tranquil tour of Senegalese villages." 


01/14/2006 - 8:29 A.M. - JAMES HAS FINISHED 11th IN STAGE 14!  While most of the favorites had navigation difficulties today, James said that he had no trouble following the road book.  Just like a roll chart we use in enduros, the road book indicates the turns and landmarks that must be followed.  James said that this stage reminded him of the Capitol City enduro at Tallahassee Fl, and the stage was easy for him.  At present, his overall standing is at position 56.   


James is on his way home!   James' actual arrival time into Atlanta with Air France (Flight
#8998H) is at 3:30 pm.  I called to verify incoming flights with Air France, and the agent informed me that their record of fights being on time is very good.  So if you want to meet a little earlier than 4, I will be there at 3:30.  Also, there will be a welcome home party at 5:00 p.m. this Saturday, January 21st at James' house.  Come out and show James how proud we are of his accomplishment and hear his accounts of the experience.  It should prove to be very interesting.  If you need directions, please email me at benhill@bellsouth.net.

JAMES IS BACK!

We were all glad to see James and Elmer return!

The Victory Celebration for January 21st has to be re-scheduled.  I'll post the new date and time when it is planned.

FLASH - There is a new member of the Embro Family.  An eight pound baby girl!  CONGRATULATIONS James and Jackie.

LINK to American Dakar Team Members



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