Giovanni Sala was one of the oldest and most accomplished Dakar Rally veterans to compete in the Rally. Giovanni Sala (born 23 November 1963) is an a six-time World Enduro Champion (including the overall world championship title in 1998). He is also a four-time winner of the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) World Trophy with Team Italy (in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2000), and was the fastest overall in the competition in 1992, 1996 and 1997. He placed third overall in the 2006 Dakar Rally.
I remember Giovanni coming back from a special stage in the Sahara desert dunes. He put his bike away and then came to see me. He proceeded to tell me that he completely dislocated his 4th finger out of its socket, and then proceeded to put it back in place during the special test and finished the race. All he wanted from me was a little reassurance and a tape job to support his hand for the next days special. And I was flattered that Giovanni came to me for the treatment of his hand, even though he had his own team doctor on the Spanish Repsol team. I asked him why he insisted for me to help him and not the other doctor. He looked at me and said, “you are a real racer, and a doctor!” I’ll never forget those words. Thanks Gio.
Almost a decade later after his last Dakar, you still see Giovanni Sala on the saddle of an KTM EXC. Among other things, he is an FIM commissioner and responsible for the Enduro World Championship courses. Gio still has that great physique at 51 years old is still more comfortable a motorcycle than most of us on foot well into 2016. Giovanni is truly one of the hard men of the Dakar Rally, and at the same time, one of the nicest guys you will ever come across.