“Que es esto? Que es esto?”
Those have become increasing familiar questions for Australian pair Stephen Riley and his co-driver Trevor Hanks as they drive through Peru attempting to conquer the Dakar Rally together for the first time.
The reason for all the questions and confused looks? They’re driving a Holden – something that is fairly unique amongst the Peugeots, Minis and Toyotas battling the sand dunes in South America over the next 10 days. And what’s more is it’s called a ‘ute’, not a truck.
“We get a lot of looks, people trying to work out what it is,” Hanks told Fox Sports. “The Yanks call it a truck but it’s a utility to us. We get some looks and lots of questions are asked about the motor and where it was built – well, we built it in the farm shed.”
And that’s exactly where the Dakar dream began for the two Australians – racing their bikes on neighbouring farms before finally realising their ambitions more than three decades later.
“It’s been 18 months [of planning],” he added. “We had been preparing for Silkway, but then it got canned as a shipping container landed in China so we turned around and sent the car to my house in Perth, in WA, and we worked on it there for a couple of months before it went back into the container to come here.
“The day after Silkway was cancelled [we decided to go for Dakar]. Steve and I grew up together on neighbouring farms and ever since we were kids riding motorbikes we wanted to do Dakar and to come on telly so we’re doing it.”
It’s a long way to come for the two Aussies, from the open space of their farms, across the Pacific Ocean, to the chaos of Peru. It started with Lima, which has a population of 10 million people – nearly half of that in the whole of Australia and with many of them squeezed into a park by the beach for the podium celebrations ahead of the race’s first stage.
“It was pretty awesome at the podium with the riot. We got stuck in a riot where they knocked the barrier over as I was coming out so the riot squad were there as we were coming out.
“But it’s phenomenal. It’s good to drive through the country and see everybody on the side of the road waving. That’s the enjoyable side of it – the rest of it is work. You put the game face on once you put the helmet on and that’s what we do.”
Finishing the race is the main prize on offer for Hanks and Riley and theirs is just one hundred of childhood dreams being fulfilled in Peru this month. Perhaps theirs was the only one hatched in a barn surrounded by utes, however.