Legendary motorcycle and car driver, former Dakar race director Hubert Auriol passed away today after a long battle with cardiovascular disease.
Auriol, originally from Adis Ababa, Ethiopia, was the first pilot to win the original Paris – Dakar on a motorcycle (1981 and 1983) and in a car (1992), a feat only repeated in recent years by Stephane Peterhansel and Nani Roma. Known as “The African”, Auriol is most famous for his epic duels with Cyril Neveu; in 1994, he finished as a runner up and from 1995, after the death of Thierry Sabine, he served as race director of Rally Dakar until 2003.
One of his most famous Dakar moments is the race against Neveu where The African broke both of his ankles during the penultimate stage; he was leading the stage on his Cagiva when, trying to take a shortcut, he lost control of the bike and broke both his ankles (one with open fracture). Despite being in absolute agony from pain, The African asked his team to put him back on the bike and finished the last twenty kilometers. Soon after, Auriol circumnavigated the world in a propeller plane, setting a record of flying around the world in 88 hours and becoming one of the fastest pilots to do so. In 2012, Auriol was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
The African’s spirit of adventure and the love for the original Paris-Dakar have inspired generations of Dakar fans, racers, and motorcyclists. In 2008, The African founded Africa Eco Race, a rally that follows the original Paris-Dakar route and is poised to replace the Dakar in Africa altogether.
Auriol lived in Suresnes, France with his wife and three daughters until he died today aged 68.
The ASO has expressed their condolences: “The organizers of the Dakar, shocked and saddened by the news, would like to extend their sincere condolences to the friends and family of a man who was a guiding light throughout the history of the rally”.