By Poppie Human

It is considered a once in a lifetime opportunity when asked to join a sports team for their competition overseas. In this case, it was truly amazing! One of our lucky Physios (Poppie Human) had the amazing opportunity in joining the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team (aka. The winning team) at the Dakar rally 2022.

On 26 December 2021 Poppie boarded a plane with 109 South Africans, 45 of which were part of the Toyota Gazoo team. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, the SA teams had to all leave on one chartered plane to get into Saudi Arabia. This came with it’s own struggles as she was stuck on the plane after they landed due to Saudi boarder control not letting them off the plane!  After a lot of talking and even a phone call to the Saudi prince, they managed to get off the plane at 12:30am.  

Let’s hear more about Poppie’s experience at Dakar:

The first week consisted of Dakar Prep.  This means that the team assembled the cars that were flown in on an air freight. We also packed and organised all the tools into the support trucks as well as dealing with a whole lot of stickers.  I was fortunate to have my own name next to a South African flag on the vehicle which my co-pilot and I would be driving during the duration of the Dakar (5500km for the support staff).  This was not a racing car, nor a beautiful Land Cruiser 300 like most of the crew got to drive, but a manual, left hand drive camper van.  I have driven a lot of cars during my short life period, but I was definitely not ready for this top-heavy, thirsty, tortoise slow Fiat.  

During the race my list of responsibilities included hydration of the crew, physiotherapy services (sometimes until after 12am), assisting in logistics, being the team ‘doctor’ for all things related to Covid isolation and medication and last but not least driver of the camper.

Sleeping is a luxury during the race, and it certainly was not easy when the dessert decided to be minus 4 degrees on two occasions. Yes, the dessert gets cold!

And where did we sleep you may ask? In a one-man tent in the middle of nowhere, literally. I remember waking up one morning, after a sandstorm the previous night, finding myself covered in sand, inside my tent. The cold shower that followed was bliss. The experience was definitely un unforgettable one.

On day 1 of Dakar, our top car driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah won the prologue. He then went on to win 3 stages, and won the Dakar Car section of 2022, leading with 30+minutes during the whole race.

Our very own Giniel de Villiers managed to snatch the 5th place after having an extremely difficult Dakar fighting Covid, a burst oil pipe and the FIA after a sensor malfunctioned and they had an altercation with a bike.   

Did I manage to have a ride in a race car?

Indeed I did!  It was not in the dessert, but I sat in the navigator’s side of the car and had a lovely joyride for about 30kms. If there is anything that I will remember from that experience, it is the sound of the car – like I’m in an airplane. It’s pretty loud, I don’t know how the boys manage 800-900km’s in it.

If you ever want to know what it’s like to drive in one of these, head over to your nearest Toyota dealership, act like a ‘larny’ and go for a test drive in a Land Cruiser 300, put that pedal to the metal and fly! (They use the same engine).

The 22 days spent away in Saudi Arabia will be remembered for finding my strength during long days, realizing again why the camping life is not something that Poppie enjoys and that even during the difficult times that we live in, it is okay to sometimes just live.

Sounds like Poppie had an unforgettable experience!  Well done to Toyota Gazoo Racing for their desert-demolishing Dakar win! Here’s to Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel for flying their way into 1st place! The CW Physios team hopes to work with you and the crew again!

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our Physios, please feel free to Whatsapp us on 071 418 0517 or call one of our branches below.

Hillcrest & Ballito Branch: 031 768 8266

Howick Branch: 033 330 3899