26 Nov 2021
Born in Ethiopia in 1952, the legendary Hubert Auriol, known as “the African”, lived there for 12 years before moving to France, not far from Paris. As a child he had an incredible competitive spirit and a strong attraction for speed. Also, Africa had always remained in his heart: he knew Ethiopia and the whole of East Africa well, but he dreamed of discovering the Western part, still unknown to him. When Thierry Sabine began to organise the Dakar, he saw a unique opportunity of fulfilling his lifetime dream. On December 26th, 1978, the first edition of the Dakar departed from Paris and Auriol was among the participants, at the cost of great sacrifices and riding a Yamaha XT. Two years on, riding and official BMW, Auriol managed to take home the first in a long series of victories. A few years later, after meeting Gian Paolo Marinoni and Roberto Azzalin, Auriol decided to join the new Cagiva team, which he helped create. In 1984 the team debuted at the Rally d’Algérie with 3 riders: Auriol, Marinoni and Picard. Hubert’s bike didn’t make it to the finish line, but the French pilot knew he was on to something. oon Hubert was able to test ride a perfected Elefant 750. Auriol’s first Dakar with the Elefant was marked, in the early stages, by problems affecting the pump that started before the arrival in Tamanrasset. The morale was very low for the same problem had hit the other two bikes too, and the team had accumulated a considerable delay. But after the problem was solved, Auriol and his Cagiva made a spectacular comeback. He seemed all set to win that edition, but shortly before arriving in Dakar, his engine broke, forcing him to abandon the race. The 1986 edition was marked by tragedy: it had started off badly when Hubert broke his collarbone in an accident near Niamey, and ended in tragedy with Marinoni losing his life as a consequence of a crash that occurred in the very final stages of the race. The 1987 edition saw the epic duel between Auriol and fellow countryman Cyril Neveu. Auriol had nearly caught up with Neveu, who was in the lead, when he hit a stump hidden in high-grass and broke both ankles. He somehow managed to get back on his Elefant 850 and finish the leg in unimaginable pain. He was then flown to hospital, in Dakar, by helicopter. Though he never won the Dakar with Cagiva, Hubert Auriol remains one of its most charismatic riders of the Lucky Explorer team, and marked the history of the rally and of the brand forever.