DakarMoto2World Rally-Raid Championship

Carlos Tatay pursuing cross-country rally, Dakar Rally

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Credit: David Goldman/Red Bull Content Pool

A year after a back and spinal cord injury ended Carlos Tatay‘s burgeoning Grand Prix motorcycle racing career, he is ready to race again. This time, however, it will be behind the wheel of a Polaris RZR when he makes his cross-country rally début at the Baja España Aragón. Eventually, he hopes to make it to the Dakar Rally.

Tatay was paralysed in an accident during the 2023 Moto2 European Championship weekend at Portimão when he fell off his bike along the kerbs before sliding across the pavement into the tyre barrier, and the resulting injuries have forced him to use a wheelchair since. His recovery ended up sparking a legal battle between the Spanish and Valencian motorcycle federations over who would cover his insurance while undergoing treatment in Spain, leaving him on the hook for his medical bills. Tatay intends to file a lawsuit to end the saga.

The injury cut short a bright career for the Spaniard, who had won the 2019 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and finished third in that year’s CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship. He eventually reached the Moto3 World Championship, running the full calendar from 2020 to 2022 with a pole and podium in Indonesia during his final season en route to placing fifteenth in points. Tatay switched to the Moto2 European Championship for 2023 and won at Jerez the race before his accident.

“I was living the life I dreamed of, I was living what I loved, I was going to join the Moto2 World Championship for three years, and now being like this is tough,” Tatay told RTVE in February. “But you have to rebuild yourself and take the positive from every situation. There’s no other way to do it or you’ll live completely sunk. It’s hard to always find positive things, but they exist.

In his case, the positive is a chance to pursue one of the world’s most famous off-road races. While rally raid is certainly a challenging discipline, many have been able to compete despite their conditions such as fellow Spaniards Isidre Esteve and Albert Llovera, both of whom raced the latest Dakar Rally in January despite being paralysed below the waist. The Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship (CERTT), which includes the Baja Aragón, has the ParaBaja Step by Step category for racers with reduced mobility.

After undergoing initial treatment in Toledo, Tatay eventually returned home to Valencia to continue rehabilitation. Hoping to get into rally raid, he began karting in February before procuring a side-by-side vehicle the following month.

Tatay will join a small but notable pool of pavement motorcycle racers who have dabbled in rally raid, though most cases continued to race on bikes. Danilo Petrucci is perhaps the biggest example as the longtime MotoGP alumnus and current Superbike competitor won a stage at the 2022 Dakar Rally. James Hillier, the 2023 Isle of Man TT Lightweight winner, raced the 2023 Dakar as a solo rider and hopes to return for the 2025 edition. Six-time MotoGP champion and Dakar fan Marc Márquez has stressed that he would only take part in a car or SSV because of the dangers presented by two wheels. Jurgen van den Goorbergh, who did Grand Prix racing in the 1990s and 2000s, has raced Dakar on both a bike and in a buggy.

However, Takuma Aoki‘s story might be one that Tatay relates to the most. The Japanese rider competed in MotoGP and the Superbike World Championship during the 1990s before his career was cut short by a testing accident in 1998. Although paralysed from the waist down, he resumed racing in four-wheel competition, entering the 2009 Dakar Rally and recently winning the Asia Cross Country Rally in a Toyota Fortuner.

The 2024 Baja Aragón will take place on 26–28 July as the penultimate round of the CERTT and third race in the FIA World Baja Cup. Tatay’s SSV will be prepared by TH-Trucks Team.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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