A heavy metal star built for dirty deeds...
by Richard Robertson
It takes a special sort of man and machine to compete in the annual Dakar Rally. Billed as the world’s ultimate off-road race, ‘The Dakar’ is a torturous, high-speed event with classes for motorcycles, cars and trucks that pits entrants from around the world against the environment, each other and the clock.
From humble beginnings in 1979, when the inaugural event ran from the French Capital of Paris to Dakar in Senegal, the race has grown in stature and reputation, but the route switched to South America in 2009 following terrorist threats in Mauritania. Far from being the death knell many predicted, the Dakar’s move to South America has re-energised the race. The next event starts in Lima, Peru, on January 5 2013, crosses though Argentina and finishes in Santiago, Chile, on January 20.
Lining up for that race on his special KTM 450 Rally Replica motorcycle (one of only 50 made annually) will be Australian businessman and adventurer Mark Davidson. Supporting him will be his wife Jennifer and mechanic Max Sullivan – plus a very special Trakka Jabiru 4x4 Remote.
The Trakka Connection
Mark met Trakka’s Dave Berry back in the mid 1980s when competing in the anything-goes Australian Safaris. Dave was fielding an early Toyota 4WD camper and the two struck up a friendship that has endured. When Mark needed a highly customised, tough 4WD motorhome for the toughest off-road race of all, he knew just the man and company to turn to.
When approached, Dave listened intently to Mark’s plans and requirements before turning the nuts-and-bolts planning over to Chris Fox, Trakka’s RV research and Development guru.
“After our initial discussions we did several concepts for Mark and talked him though those to decide which was best,” Chris said.
“Once he was happy with the concept it then took me about three weeks of fulltime 3D modelling to make up a working prototype on the computer. Following that it took just over four weeks to turn that prototype into reality.”
“One key design criteria was for the Jabiru to be shipped with the bike inside, as a complete unit, and arranged so that nothing could or would come loose or fall. Another was for the van to be 4X4, so we knew the Mercedes Benz Sprinter would work because we’ve proven it in service with other Jabiru models.”
“A real design challenge was the size of the motorbike. Ideally we wanted it to go in forwards because that’s easier, but in reality the only way we could fit it in was to put in backwards, with the Jabiru’s bed above the seat area. You’ve also got to bear in mind this vehicle has a bathroom, plus a full kitchen and lounge/dinette, so there were some real design challenges!” Chris explained.
All motorhome designs are a compromise and in this particular design the bed area is where compromise is most evident. Designed to accommodate one person, it runs the width of the Jabiru, making it 1.9 metres long by just 1 metre wide. Fortunately there’s a high ceiling and big roof hatch above it, avoiding claustrophobia, although it’s a fair way off the floor and getting in should prove interesting.
“This Jabiru has most of the features of our Remote Package, with diesel-fired hot water, heating and cooktop, plus the optional 170-litre long-range fuel tank. However, it doesn’t have the 160-watt solar panel set-up that is usually a part of the Remote Package, as Mark didn’t require them,” Chris finished.
But wait, there’s more...
If designing a machine to take two people and a racing motorcycle across some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth doesn’t sound daunting enough, there was another major design criteria: The Jabiru must be capable of being converted to a normal motorhome when not in racing mode.
Requiring about a day’s work (so it’s no “Oh let’s go away for the night, Honey” quick-fix), the Trakka Dakar is able to be transformed into a more-or-less standard Jabiru 4x4 Remote by removing the rear bulkhead and sundry fixtures and installing a north/south bed that’s just a whisker under king size.
For those not contemplating a high-speed dash across arid and inhospitable foreign lands, Trakka’s Jabiru 4x4 Remote is still a specialised off-the-beaten-track machine that’s highly self-contained and capable, even in standard form. Built on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter powered by a 140 kW / 400 Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel driving a 5-speed auto-transmission with selectable low range, it’s a refined and formidable package iMotorhome is looking forward to putting through its paces closer to home. In the mean time, to find out more visit www.trakka.com or call 1800 TRAKKA.
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