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About Chris Jones

For a first attempt at the Dakar a good goal is merely to finish.

Traditionally only a fraction, less than half, of the competitors finish and even fewer rookies make it to the Lac Rose in Dakar, Senegal.

Like most avid motorcycle enthusiasts, I have been a fan of the Dakar for years. And, like most, I looked on in awe at those amazing athletes and wondered aloud how one could do such a thing. To me, they may as well have been riding around the moon it looked so foreign. When I really started tuning in around 4 or 5 years ago I had never ridden a bike off-road and quite honestly didn’t have much desire to. Purely as a way to enhance my road riding and racing I begrudgingly bought a dirtbike, a five year old KTM 2-smoke, in 2002 to learn how to “slide”.

"Not long after my first foray into
a few axle-deep mudholes
I was hooked on dirt."

A year and a half after that in June of 2003 my wife, Spice, and I embarked on what we planned to be a two year, around the world journey on two KLR650s. Our off-road riding was limited to a few local harescrambles in Georgia but we would soon learn that there was a whole other world out there, literally. To begin our dirtbike boot camp we rode the 3500 mile Trans-Am Trail,, across the country. Again, I fell in love with the dirt and, once we got to Utah and Nevada, the desert.

I mostly forgot about the Dakar but all along the trip I yearned for that type of intensity you only find in a racing atmosphere. Fast forward 7 months and 20,000 miles into the trip when Spice and I had realized the dream of spending New Years at the southernmost tip of South America, Ushuaia, Argentina. For coffee one morning we happened into a café for our usual morning ritual and sat mesmerized once again at the spectacle that surrounds the start of the traditional Paris Dakar Rally. For the next 3 days Spice and I made our way to the same café at the same time to tune in and dream, me anyway. Spice I think was a little puzzled but it was all too clear at that point why early on in our courtship I would abruptly leave the comforts of REM sleep for a half hour tv show hosted by a goofy Brit named Toby Moody. Toby over the next couple years would become a household name. Who would have thought?

Chris & Spice Jones

It was at that point that we both watched on and barely said a word but knew what the other was thinking-after this trip we are doing Dakar.
The trip ended a little prematurely but in hindsight maybe it was perfect timing. Soon after our return home the idea of setting our sights on Dakar started to take shape. I had barely ridden in the desert and certainly never raced in it so I set out to see what that was all about.

A fellow I had heard of named Scot Harden had done some desert riding and even the Dakar I thought so I called him to see how I could get to the Dakar. He happened to be putting on a little weekend seminar in 6 weeks for a couple of the American privateers, actually one was Canadian, Bob Bergman, and the other was from South Africa, Kevin Heath. Scot said I was welcome to come along and learn a little about Dakar so Spice and I packed up the truck and loaded the KLR on a trailer for Nevada. Since we were just back from our trip the bike still had most of the touring accessories. I didn’t give it much thought until Scot admitted to me that he had never given off-road racing lessons to anyone with luggage on their bike. Oh well, what did he know, I had ridden to South America. Man did I have a lot to learn but again it wasn’t enough to turn me away. I was hooked and going to Dakar. My timing was a little off, by a year exactly, but who’s counting?

" is your whole life for a couple years
...and possibly a lifetime."

To start my road to Dakar right away I called a buddy to see if he would be into racing the Baja 1000. He agreed and 6 weeks before the race we had a team of 4 riders amped and ready to race Baja. That is a story in itself (we finished but it took a little while) so I won’t bore you but at that point I realized, with a little help and rational thought from Spice that maybe I should set my compass on Dakar ’07 and not’06.

Another Baja 1000, two solo Vegas-to-Renos, two Death Valley Rallys, two Harden Nevada Rally Experiences, countless trips out west for riding and training and the overwhelming personal and financial sacrifices involved in putting together a privateer effort and I think we are ready.Almost three years ago we sat and watched the satellite coverage of an event probably 15,000 miles away and a dream was born. Little did we know it would dominate our life the way it has. Every ride away from the house, every run around the neighborhood and up and down our favorite trail, every race and trip out to the desert, and every hour spent lifting those stupid weights has all been to get to Dakar. So when someone asks, “how much does it cost?” or, “how do you do it?” the easy answer is about 50 or 60 grand but really it is your whole life for a couple years and possibly a lifetime. Ask those that have done it, I did.


Learn more about the
motorcycle journeys of Chris Jones








Dakar Team JJE Racing

JJE Racing Team

The team I will be racing with for my inaugural Dakar is JJE Racing. Its leader is James Embro out of Atlanta, GA, hence the name. James will be returning to the Dakar after turning in a spectacular finish in his rookie year in 2006, despite his post-race declaration of “never, ever returning to that God-forsaken place as long as I live”. The pain wears off eventually, I guess. Not only is James going back but he has assembled a team with a support truck full of mechanics and three of his most willing and adventurous racing cohorts. The racers are myself, James, Elmer Symons and Steve Laroza. Joining us in the truck are the support crew of Paul Dubinsky, David Crute, Philip Symons and Duane.

"I feel honored to be riding along with and be a part of
such an accomplished and distinguished team"

Each rider and mechanic has his own unique reason and motivation for Dakar. For myself, if you have gotten this far in the website you are probably aware of my obsession, but the others can only speak for themselves. A brief word on each:

Paul Dubinsky

Paul DubinskyPaul, my mechanic, is a diehard racing fan and has been for years but admittedly is more comfortable behind a keyboard writing some esoteric computer code than underneath a KTM. Not to worry. Paul and I are quickly sorting out the many facets of KTM 640 maintenance and I feel certain we will have it all sorted out by Jan 21. He has been a sports car racer for over 20 years competing in IMSA, Grand Am, SCCA club and national races and in SCCA ProRally championship rallies. He is by far the oldest person on the team, maybe even combined ages but, he brings along the enthusiasm of a true Dakarista. “I have always wanted to do the Dakar in any capacity and this team is even better than I had ever hoped. I know that this will be a life changing experience and I can’t wait to get along.”

Paul and I crossed paths a few months ago through a mutual friend. I was looking for a mechanic to go along and he was looking for a way to get there. He has been instrumental in the development and testing of our support truck and tireless in his dedication to the team. I don’t quite know if he is totally aware of what he is signing up for but I’m not about to tell him yet.

James Embro

James EmbroJames has been a fixture in the Best In The Desert series out west for a while now. He has made quite name for himself in racing circles and is widely known as an all-around super guy and a helluva racer. His goal of getting a team to the finish has been his motivation and pretty much ruled his life since the race finished earlier this year. James made it to the finish in his rookie year through careful planning, raw courage, an ace mechanic in Elmer Symons and surrounding himself by great people. James is also a Cancer and enjoys the feeling of warm, beach sand through his toes on long sunset walks. His other greatest challenge besides motorcycle racing is learning the many ways you can cook and enjoy an artichoke. Keep on cookin’ James!



David Croot

David CrootAccompanying James in the truck this year will be a longtime buddy, David Croot. I don’t know much about David other than what I learned when we teamed up on the Perry Mountain 24 Hr Challenge in Alabama this year. His sense of humor and positive attitude made an immediate impression on me. I have no doubt James is bringing along the best. I also know, just for the record, that David crashed the 24 Hr bike the hardest given its busted handguards and fender, which is no small feat when I am on a team.




Elmer Symons

Elmer SymonsThe next rider is Elmer Symons. At the ripe old age of 29, Elmer has amassed a racing resume of some outstanding achievements. Born and raised in a small town in South Africa, Elmer quickly made a name for himself in the rally circles. At only 22 years old he dethroned one of South Africa’s best at the Roof of Africa Rally in Lesotho. Years later he repeated his victory on a five year old Honda with no support save for his dedicated brother, Philip. Elmer first attended the Dakar Rally three years ago wrenching for KTM legend Scot Harden. Scot managed to bring it home in the top 20 thanks to Elmer and crew. Elmer has dreamed of the Dakar Rally since he was a kid and opportunity has finally presented itself. At the 24Hr Challenge I spoke of earlier Elmer SOLOED it and smashed the previous champion’s record by more than 3-1/2 hours. A feat truly unlike any other. He has also been a real inspiration for me as I watch and learn from one of the best in the world.


Philip Symons

Philip SymonsWrenching for Elmer is his longtime partner in crime and brother Philip Symons. I have only crossed paths with Philip for a couple brief testing weekends this year but after listening to Elmer rave about his “big bro” for months now I felt like I already knew him. He is truly a first-class guy and his Southern Hemispheric sense of humor had me guessing and laughing for hours. His unconditional dedication to getting Elmer to the finish was evident and was one only two brothers could share. I feel fortunate to share the dream with both of them.




Steve Laroza

Hailing from Tracy, California on a KTM/Mecasystems 525 EXC is Steve Laroza. Once again, I don’t know much about Steve other than what I learned through a few phone calls and two weekends testing in Nevada and California. Initially, Steve and I were signed up for James’s “Dakar rent-a-bike” program where, for a fee, we would be supplied with a heavily rally-modified KTM 625 SXC suitable for the Dakar Rally. It was never meant to be a winning machine but perfect for a first-time privateer to finish on. A couple weekends of thoroughly thrashing his actual racebike left Steve with some reservations however. It didn’t help that the Rally Pan Am guys, under the tutelage of Dakar veteran Charlie Rauseo, showed up with some beautifully prepared, brand new 525s. After some careful thought (and a blown motor and catastrophic brake failure and smashed bellypan) Steve opted for a new bike of his own.

Steve is also a veteran of the Best In The Desert and the only person to-date to win a class championship on both two wheels and four in the same year. Way to go Steve! Steve’s positive, focused attitude and skills in the desert will go a long way in his drive for Dakar. During our weekend of testing at this year’s Death Valley Rally I really got to know Steve as he and I cut our teeth navigating via some extremely valuable Dakar-like roadbook routes courtesy of Scott Whitney, In true teammate fashion we helped each other along through some of the most challenging terrain this country has to offer.



Rounding out our support crew in the immaculately prepared F350 is Duane, who will be Steve’s go-to guy throughout the rally. Duane signed on to be a part of the crew early on and right away displayed his enthusiasm for the team. When I met Duane last year I was prepping for the ’05 Vegas to Reno at James’s house in Vegas. He looked at me and my 640 a little strange and asked if I had ever done anything like this (soloing the 500) but afterward said little else. I should have taken it as a sign. Duane is another veteran of the Best In The Desert series and self-proclaimed “designer of insane, nearly unrideable desert routes”. In an effort to maintain some consistency I once again didn’t know much about Steve’s mechanic Duane. We started from square-one at the Nevada Rally Experience and Death Valley Rallies but without even a question Duane jumped in there to help me when clearly there was a need for an expert. His attention to detail and passion for the desert has been cultivated and nurtured over years of off-road riding and racing.

So that about wraps up the team members. I haven’t even touched on their respective mounts of choice but real quickly James and Elmer are riding new 2007 KTM 660 Rallye bikes which they will pick up in Lisbon upon our arrival and Steve is riding a Mecasystems/KTM 525 built by Team Rally Pan Am.

Our support truck, a heavily modified Ford F350, will literally be a completely self-sufficient mobile motorcycle rally shop. Elmer and James and a team of numerous experts over the last 6-months have spent countless hours burning the midnight oil prepping this truly awesome piece of machinery. Inside it will carry the four members of the support crew in relative comfort (as much as a four-point harnessed racing seat can offer) and carry along every necessity a 16-day, African desert rally team will command.

I feel honored to be riding along with and be a part of such an accomplished and distinguished team. Each and every member brings to the party his own unique collection of experiences to contribute to the team and in the end make the sum total better than the parts.

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