Splash it all over
From Cyril's memoirs dated 2 March 2008
The Dakar Rally is an awe-inspiring event for many reasons, not least because the desert does strange things to a man. I know - from
On a scorching day in August 1999, as the sun beat down, I knelt by the side of the XT600, staring at a flat rear tyre. Sweat dripped from the tip of my nose and landed in the dust, evaporating almost instantly. I felt defeated and lonely and for the first time since I was a boy I clasped my hands together and prayed, concluding my silent plea by leaning back and shouting up at the vast azure sky. ‘Why, oh God? Why me? Why now? Why?!’
‘Oh Cyril, get a grip.’ It was Francesca. ‘Drink your tea and then get Stefano over with his mobile tyre thingy if you can’t do it yourself. You have to get it done by tomorrow else you’ll miss the ferry. What a drama queen.’ Three days later, thanks to Stefano, I'd made the trip from my home in the Testa di Cazzo hills and was actually in
The trip had been planned for months, a ride through Tunisia, Algeria and Mali to Timbuktu, via Tuat (merely because the name made us laugh). The other half of ‘us’ was Stewart Kidd, a brawny off-road specialist developing Yamaha’s two-wheel-drive 2-Trac system fitted to a test mule. I’d pulled strings to get myself on this trip as it was my final year before retirement and the chance was too good to miss. Let’s not talk about hindsight, it makes fools of us all.
I knew Stewart, though not well, from his regular dealings with the R&D department and he’d always seemed like a nice bloke, if a little intense. Nothing wrong with that, I thought, a serious approach in unforgiving terrain was fine by me, gritty sandwiches and a few beach races being my only sand experience up until that point.
Five days in, deep into the desert, we reached a rocky plain on the edge of a mountain range and set up camp as the sky darkened and brilliant stars began to emerge. We cooked and ate, drank a few tots of whisky, then lay back to gaze at the firmament. I’ll admit that I’ve had my cod-philosophical moments when staring up at the night sky, usually worse for wear, but Stewart suddenly became very
‘Cyril, do you realise that every time you pleasure yourself, your Lord and God is watching?’
‘I’m sorry?’ I said, startled, but not sure if I’d heard him correctly.
‘The Lord, your God, Cyril. Our God. We all must answer to him at some point.’ His voice had gone all boomy, like a very hammy vicar.
‘Yes, yes, that’s true... I suppose,’ I said, playing for time. ‘Although for now I’d concentrate on answering to Mr Kunasawa, who’s especially interested in the outcome of this test.’
Stewart then stood up and, despite the chilly air, threw aside his jacket and pulled off his T-shirt. In the firelight I could see a sprawling tattoo on his chest and abdomen. It was the face of Christ.
‘Christ!’ I blurted, in surprise rather than recognition, given that the face looked looked more like Elton John's and I only twigged that it was meant to be Jesus because of the crown of thorns. Flippin' marvellous, I thought. I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with a full-on religious nutter. Great.
‘Our Lord Barry sees all,’ he said, stretching his arms wide.
‘Barry? Is that meant to be Barry Sheene?’ I asked, squinting at the tattoo. ‘I doubt he’d be very flattered if he saw it, Stewart.’
He then fiddled around in a pannier and pulled out a small bottle, proclaiming, ‘Let us anoint our bodies with the sacred liquid. Cyril, cleanse your sins!’ And with that he sprinkled this stuff on me as I cowered by the fire. I wiped a spot of it from my face and took a tentative sniff, wary of what it might be, but there was no doubt about it – Brut 33 aftershave.
Then, with no further ceremony, but with an air of urgency, Stewart rode off into the night and I had to make my own way home. Ten days later he turned up at Yamaha HQ in Surrey as if nothing had happened, filed his report and no more was said about the incident. However, when Barry died in 2003, they found Stewart in his own back garden, attached to a huge crucifix wearing a set of vintage Sheene Heron Suzuki leathers. He was perfectly okay (physically), having climbed into the leathers after nailing them to the cross – sacrilege in itself, some might say. The whole scene reeked of