Spain will have the largest delegation of motorcyclists in the 2019 Dakar Rally and among them will be Israel Borrell, almost unknown in his native land but with a fame won in Peru, where he is the brilliant national champion of supercross.
"I registered as Spanish because I had to show my passport. I love racing as a Spaniard, but 90 percent of the support I get in terms of sponsors and fans is from Peru," Borrell, 44, said in an interview with EFE.
"I'd like to be able to register myself as from both countries, but I know I can't," he said, adding that he has started the process of becoming a Peruvian citizen.
Since swapping La Mancha for the tropics of northern Peru, Borrell has never dropped his passion for the powerful two-wheelers, almost always in motocross, his specialty, but later also in the enduro and rallies, and has now had his dream come true of competing in the toughest of them all, the Dakar.
In 2019 he will compete in it for the third time, after completing the rally in 2013 and having dropped out in 2018 with mechanical problems.
"Everything was perfect. The motorcycle was ideal. I was doing well. I was sure I'd end the day among the first 40, but out of nowhere the motor broke down," he recalled.
So for his next Dakar, all he asks is to do as he did in 2013 when he crossed the finish line in Santiago, "to complete the experience again and add one more to my book."
"I'd love to be able to say I'll be fighting the top 30, but that's a lie. I want to go to enjoy it and I'm an enthusiast who likes to tackle it head-on. It's a lot of kilometers. It's not worth losing the whole race for a position," Borrell said.
This time he will ride a KTM leased from Spain's Xraids team, which has already provided him with mechanical assistance in other adventures, and will have the added support of his sponsors Motul, Socopur, MSG Performance and Mancora Hard Enduro.
Al Borrell does not lack dunes to practice on in northern Peru, where he went at age 21 to help his father breed squat lobsters, until two years ago when dad changed the business for a hotel that he manages in the coastal municipality of Mancora.
"It was the moment when you wanted to own the world and become a billionaire. I came to that, but obviously I quit trying to be a billionaire. I kept my work on the beach, which is very calm and allows me to ride my motorcycle, which I love. For me, that is quality of life," he said.