Malcolm Smith raced the Dakar Rally in a car in 1987 and 1988, along with Patrick Zanorli. A NYT article outlined the story. In 1974, a serious motorcycle accident laid Malcolm up long enough to have him take a serious look at racing four-wheeled vehicles. He immediately rose to the top of that field. Twice Malcolm participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally, a 22-day event in Northern Africa – “the most miserable piece of work an off-road racer will ever see”. Only 151 of the 603 cars, trucks and motorcycles starting the race made it to the finish in 1988. The photos show just how miserable these guys must have been, and furthermore, racing in northern Africa is a whole different deal than west Africa, or South America for that matter.
In an interview with Malcolm, he said “I’m often asked, What does it take to win? It’s a simple answer. Preparation. Perseverance. And a little luck.” Malcolm described his wins of the Roof of Africa on a motorcycle and in a buggy as well as the Atlas Rally in Morocco. In 1987, he was asked to participate in the Paris Dakar in Northern Africa. He jumped at the chance, but what a surprise it would be.
In Malcolm’s words:
“I found myself in the most remote, exciting, and adventurous landscape I had ever seen. My team and I were strangers in a foreign land, not expected to win — hardly expected to finish. But we persevered, trying to keep our wits about us as we pulled out all our tricks: pit crews, chase planes, mental endurance. The desert answered: relentless heat, sand storms, and its most frightening weapon — desolation.”
“Don’t get lost.” It sounds like simple enough advice, but I assure you, you’ve not felt loneliness until you’ve driven for hours without seeing another soul, climbed to the top of the highest dune, put army-grade binoculars to your eyes and conducted a 360° pan.”
“Sand. Nothing but sand.”
“But that’s the Paris Dakar Rally. That’s what makes it special. The adventure. The excitement. The thrill of counting on not just yourself, but your team and the thousands of hours you’ve spent preparing for every possible curve the race may throw at you.”
“I finished fourth overall. It was unlike any event I had ever raced before or since. I consider it one of my proudest accomplishments. It’s easy to go fast over twenty minutes; it’s much harder to go fast over twenty days. The difference? Preparation. Perseverance.”
Below is are shots of Patrick Zanaroli, one of Malcolm’s teammates that year. And the other shot is Malcolm in his car, tired, pressing on through the sands of Northern Africa.