I just posted this on my blog, a bit of my tribute to a real sportsman.
Rest in Peace Desert Tiger
Kemal Merkit 06/07/1960 - 09/07/2012
It is devastating to report that today the rally world lost a true hero, a true sportsman. Turkish rider, Kemal Merkit, the ‘Desert Tiger’, rider, runner, cyclist, all around positive influence for all whose lives his presence touched, was killed doing what his fans may like to think he loved best, on a bike, in a rally stage. The discipline is a cruel one and sadly, Kemal joins many of the greats that gave everything for a sport so loved, so revered, so feared. Sainct, Meoni, Caldecott, the list goes on, hauntingly now appended with Merkit.
The details are emerging, but on stage 6 of the TransAnatolia Rally, Kemal and Italian rider Mirco Miotto slowed to check on their navigation when they were hit from behind by young Dutch rider Wouter Vaarkamp, who emerged from the dust without time to react. Sadly, Vaarkamp was also pronounced dead at the scene. Miotto received minor injuries and has been treated.
While I was familiar with Kemal from his earlier Dakar’s, he really came to my attention before the 2007 edition through the postings of a friend of his on ADVrider. Kemal became a defacto inmate, one of the riders we virtually supported year after year. His enthusiasm for racing was infectious to those of us who became his fans, an enthusiasm that never wavered and never diminished.
Unstoppable is a word that comes to mind and I challenge anyone to find a photo or a video clip where his is not smiling. Choosing to take on the toughest rallies in the toughest way possible, Kemal was the embodiment of a sportsman. I never heard a single story from anyone, that portrayed him in any other way than a helpful, enthusiastic racer, eager to help anyone and share the delight he derived from his passions.
I never had the privilege of meeting Kemal in person, but early on I became a fan and my admiration for his feats never faltered. From RallyRaidReview, only the deepest of condolences for his family, his loved ones, and his legions of rally fans. Rest in peace Desert Tiger, you will always be, one of the greats.