Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Racer with Down syndrome to make Dakar history

AFP, LIMA

Jacques Barron, right, and his son and codriver Lucas Barron pose under their utility task vehicle at a workshop in Lima on Dec. 18.

Photo: AFP

Lucas Barron is to make history today, when he lines up on the Dakar 2019 starting line in Peru, becoming the first person with Down syndrome to take part in the grueling race.

The 25-year-old, who is to be copilot for his father, Jacques, is to tackle the world’s most demanding rally: a 5,000km, 10-day marathon, 70 percent of which is raced over sand.

“Our aim is to finish the race and achieve our goal,” Lucas Barron said. “This race is brilliant for me. It will be easy because we know the route.”

Lucas Barron, who has been training for a year and a half alongside his father, is to ride on one of 500 vehicles taking part in the race.

He will compete in the utility task vehicle category for off-road four-wheel drive buggies, a class that was added in 2017.

Born in Lima, Lucas Barron has always been a keen sportsman, taking part in swimming, soccer, cycling, surfing and water skiing.

He said he is “ready and able to overcome the desert dunes.”

A fan of rock and hip hop music, Lucas Barron said he would provide important mechanical assistance to his father.

“I’m going to help him look at the engine, the road and the tires,” Lucas Barron said.

He is familiar with the Peruvian terrain that is to host the entirety of the Dakar rally this year after Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia declined the opportunity due to austerity measures.

In September, he was copilot alongside his father in the Desafio Inca race that acted as preparation for the main event and took on the dunes of Ica, Peru.

The “Barron x 2” team finished seventh.

Jacques Barron, a 55-year-old engineer, said that Dakar organizers had no problem with his son taking part.

The requirements were the same as for any other competitor: passing all the medical exams and supplying the necessary documentation.

“Lucas already has the International Automobile Federation license to participate in the Dakar,” Jacques Barron said.

He said his son is afraid of nothing and knows what to do if there is a problem.

“He knows how to look at the temperature of the belt, the oil and tire pressure,” said Jacques Barron, who has competed in the Dakar race five times.

“Lucas’ eyes will be the cars’ eyes to avoid crashing into another car or any object,” he added. “People with Down syndrome can develop certain abilities: Lucas can play any sport.”

The Dakar is to be run from today to Jan. 17, starting in Lima and traversing the southern regions of Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and down to Tacna on the border with Chile.

The longest and toughest stage is to cover 370km from Arequipa to Tacna on Thursday.

The Barron team’s main aim is simply to finish the race.

Lucas Barron has the support of one of his idols, five-time motorbike winner Cyril Despres of France, a friend of his father’s.

“Despres wrote to me on Facebook congratulating me,” he said, adding that the Frenchman gave him a signed shirt in 2017 — a treasured possession.

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