Any new year represents a beginning, and after a challenging 2020, most everyone is looking for respite from the turmoil with muted, local celebrations. And then there’s Amy Lerner, Sara Bossaert, and my friend Sue Mead, who are instead embracing controlled chaos in the form of competing in the 2021 Dakar Rally in an iconic 1982 Porsche 911, racing through my old stomping grounds of Saudi Arabia.
There is more to unpack in that sentence than at first glance. An all-women team competing in this 5,000-mile race is significant. An all-women team competing in a driving rally in Saudi Arabia is enormously significant, just two years after women were finally granted the right to drive on a momentous day in June 2018. It heralds the speed of modernity and change in a Kingdom rooted in tradition.
And this team isn’t racing in some comfy, new vehicle with all the bells and whistles. No, this team is running in the Classics series in a Porsche nearly forty years old with very up to date COVID-19 protocols firmly in place.
The 2021 Dakar Rally follows a 12-stage route, starting in coastal Jeddah on January 3 and winding its way through the Kingdom, returning to Jeddah on January 15, covering 5,000 miles of road and sand. The 1982 Porsche 911 competes in a regularity rally, also known as a time-speed-distance or TSD rally. Each segment is driven in a specified time at a specified average speed parallel with the Dakar Rally. It’s a test of vehicle management, mental stamina, and endurance.
Driver New Jersey-based Amy Lerner is an experienced racer, with more than ten years of off-road rally racing under her belt. She’s acquired a historic 1982 Porsche 911 3.0L SC carefully prepped by Belgium-based Henrard Racing in honor of countryman Jacky Ickx, who conquered the 1984 Dakar Rally in a similar vehicle.
Lerner’s co-pilot, Sara Bossaert, is a highly accomplished sailor. Sara is trading in her extensive seafaring navigation experience for sand crossing in her maiden automotive race, starting at arguably the pinnacle of the sport. Amy and Sara are business partners in Barcelona, renovating 19th-century apartments of all things.
Facilitating this adventure as Team Manager is my dear friend and Off-Road Hall of Famer, Sue Mead, winner of her class in the 2011 Dakar Rally. Sue is joined by the legendary Judith Tomaselli, author of the official Paris-Dakar 2001 book, veteran of over 25 Dakar rallies, and a key coordinator of this global effort. These two icons in their own right will drive a motorhome through the route, providing support and shelter to Team 202.
Everyone is looking for inspiration and a fresh start for 2021, so stay safe at home and drive along virtually with the adventures of this impressively accomplished team. Follow Team Lerner on Twitter and Instagram and the entire 2021 Dakar Rally here.