Former Rockhampton motorbike rider Craig Tarlington is living the dream and ready to race his machine over 9000km of South American tracks in the Dakar Rally.
Former Rockhampton motorbike rider Craig Tarlington is living the dream and ready to race his machine over 9000km of South American tracks in the Dakar Rally. Contributed

Riders dream nearly reality

FORMER Rockhampton racer Craig Tarlington is within sight of fulfilling a dream that will have taken him from Depot Hill to the Dakar Rally.

While most of us recover from the celebrations that are customary for this time of year,Tarlington and his crew will be about to undertake the adventure of a lifetime that will, so long as all goes well, take them through 9000 kilometres of the South American continent.

Born in Charleville, Tarlington grew up in Rockhampton where he honed his motorbike riding skills on waste land at the Depot Hill end of Quay St.

His sister Shari McMullen recalls that bike racing came in many forms which included mini bikes, motocross and enduros over the years.

"He was always on a bike as a kid," she said, "if he was not down the Sticks (Depot Hill) he was at Six Mile."

Not that Shari was given a lot of encouragement to become a pillion rider for her brother.

"I wouldn't lean," she explained for the rejection.

After leaving Rockhampton 15 years ago for Brisbane, Tarlington then made the move to South Africa on a work commitment.

Meanwhile the rider was beginning to take more interest in the ultimate endurance race, the Dakar Rally, a race he had read about while still a youngster in Rockhampton.

"Craig didn't ride much in Brisbane but since living overseas he has picked up an interest again," Shari said.

While in Africa working on a large project, his interest in competitive racing was rekindled after attending a Motor Show in Johannesburg in 2006.

Tarlington has worked in many countries and these days his employer, Hatch, a South African based company specialising in the mining industry, is also his major sponsor.

Two years later Tarlington was set for his first look at the Dakar Rally as a spectator with plans for more active participation in 2009.

Unfortunately those plans did not come to fruition as the 2008 rally was cancelled due to the threat of terrorist action in the north of the African continent.

In 2009 the Dakar Rally moved from the traditional Europe to North Africa route to South America, leaving Tarlington to nominate for the Heroes and Legends Rally, a replacement race but held over the original Paris to Dakar route.

Preparations for Tarlington and his team were well advanced when organisers were again forced into the drastic step of cancelling the rally, again due to terrorist activity in North Africa.

In early 2010 a call from a friend informed Tarlington that three time Dakar winner Cyril Despres was taking a group to the World Championship Cross Country Rally for Motorcycles in Sardinia Italy, and was he interested in being a part of it.

The former Rocky rider was not just a part of the rally but after 3000km of racing he was the third to finish.

Another transfer through work took Tarlington to South America, the new home of the Dakar Rally, to live. Now it is all coming together for 2012 and the Dakar Rally on New Year's Day starting at Mar Del Plata in Argentina and heading to Lima, in Peru, via Chile, finishing on January 15.



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