Plake, Kia Motors still in the thick of wild Dakar rally |

Plake, Kia Motors still in the thick of wild Dakar rally

Glen Plake’s mohawk likely still is cutting through the North African sand dunes like the fin in “Jaws.”

While the threat of terrorism postponed the 2000 Paris-Dakar-Cairo off-road rally, an airlift shuttled the race crews out of danger, and allowed the race to resume on Monday. Plake’s Kia Motors team, which includes driver Darren Skilton and co-driver Sue Mead, is 60th overall after a 96th-place finish in Tuesday’s 12th stage from Waw el Kebir to Waha, Libya.

“He just was kind of like, ‘It’s amazing. Every day is different,'” Plake’s sister, Tamara Plake-Bunnett recounted of her brother’s brief telephone call home last week. “He just said he was having a great time.”

Plake is racing in his first Paris-Dakar-Cairo, the newest incarnation of the Paris-Dakar off-road rally, which is the second-largest automobile race in the world. Plake, who also is a world-class freeskier, started rally racing this summer, after starting his auto racing career on dirt tracks in California and Nevada.

This year’s Paris-Dakar-Cairo race was scheduled to run from Dakar, Senegal’s capital after a technical check in Paris, across North Africa to Cairo, but a terrorist threat in Niger forced race officials to cancel four race stages and airlift the competitors out of Niger on Thursday. After the French government warned of a “serious risk of an external terrorist attack,” race organizers brought in two large Russian transport planes for Al Wyg, Libya.

Plake had time for a telephone call on Jan. 12 to let his family know he was all right.

“He just really wanted to make sure we all knew he was fine,” Plake-Bunnett said.

Plake’s Kia team had finished as high as 53rd in the race’s earlier stages, and Plake-Bunnett said Speedvision, a satellite television network devoted to racing, tabbed the team as one to watch in the future. French racers typically have dominated the Paris-Dakar races, and this one appears no different: France’s Jean Louis Schlesser took the overall race lead on Tuesday with a win in the 12th stage.

“We wanted to gain time today, and if possible, take the No. 1 spot,” Schlesser said. “Mission accomplished – though anything could happen. There’s still 3,000 kilometers to go.”

The rally plunges deeper into Libya in the next stage, from Waha to Khofura. The stage is a fast crossing of the desert, were racers likely will need their global positioning systems to help them navigate a sea of sand dunes.

Race fans can follow Plake and the rest of the Paris-Dakar-Cairo rally online at, and Speedvision has been broadcasting updates each day at 5 p.m.

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