Nice to hit this thread. I ride technical rocky stuff a lot where I live but far less bike time than I'd like due to my schedules, so I joined Seth and did Charlie's Rally School a couple of years ago and got myself to the Mongolia Rally that summer where I finished mid pack much to my surprise. Basically a year of prep and physical training for a rally that's a great option for the first timer due to pretty easy terrain with some challenging navigation and lowish cost. I agree that riding the actual rally gave me the most in terms of confidence and a sense of what it takes to do double that at Dakar in terms of stages, but I doubt I would have gotten half as far without the learning I got at Charlie's school. Finances are keeping me from getting to another rally so I filled the gap by going to Rally School again last year which was a great way to get a cheaper rally fix closer to home. Maybe something to think of adding to your school/training concept to help fund it?
I think your idea is great if you can get it into a viable package with enough support. Yes it would be nice to have more North Americans at a level to win the Dakar but what's wrong with over the hill casual types wanting to go out and have some fun? For many recreation businesses those are the guys who keep those businesses afloat because they have the $$ to foot the bills. And yes starting young is key to being great when you're older, but not all of us are that lucky.
On the subject of smaller close to home navigation rallies, there are a few of us here in Newfoundland working on trying to build a 5 day event. We got bogged down with some government departments and finding suitable routes for stages. The areas we thought would be great turned out to have a lot of A to B and dead ends but very little in the way of stuff we could loop around etc to make the navigation interesting. We're still working on it.
Lastly I would be interested in a supporting role, I just can't see myself getting the means together for Dakar before I feel my age would be totally against me. I'm definitely interested in some of the African rallies etc as a more reasonable objective instead.
Maybe I can buzz out to Parhump for a visit when I go to Vegas in February for some company training?