The true meaning of the word ‘team-mates’ was discovered just five kilometres into the 342km second stage of the Dakar Rally in Peru when paraplegic rider Nicola Dutto spectacularly crashed.
Dutto was just ahead of his Offroad Adventure Crew teammates Pablo Toral and Julian Villarrubia when he misjudged the exit off a small dune and crashed his bike.
Toral then went close to running over his team-mate and Villarrubia was also left with nowhere to go.
While they both managed to avoid Dutto, the only thing on their minds was getting him off the sand and upright to check on his health.
They managed to settle him on the bike, which has special side frames to keep his legs close to the bodywork, and within a couple of minutes all three were back underway with Dutto leading the charge.
Dutto has been a long-time professional rider and won the Italian and European Baja Championship wins in 2008 and 2009.
A year later, his world was turned upside down when he broke his spinal cord in an accident on the Italian Baja, forcing him into a wheelchair.
In November of 2011, nine months after getting out of hospital, he arrived at the Baja 1000 in a specially-modified Polaris Buggy.
Following the race, he announced his goal was to get back on a motorbike again and in 2012 he competed in the 500km Baja Aragon.
With help from KTM he continually worked on his bike and its modifications and this year is riding a KTM 450 in the Dakar Rally.
Dutto explained the full extent of his task to Dakar.com prior to this year’s event.
“I will compete with a KTM equipped with a special roll-bar to protect my legs, that I have developed,” he said.
“On the handlebar I have the buttons for the rear and front brake, to change gear and to accelerate.
“I’m actually tied to the bike.
“I won’t be alone. I will share this adventure with three other drivers who will escort me; one riding in front, one on each side and one behind me. It’s teamwork.
“We have competed together in the Dakar Series at the Merzouga Rally and the Morocco Rally.
“I take the start motivated to give the maximum. I’m fascinated by the idea to spend many hours on the bike pushing forward my physical and mental limits.
“Scared? Nothing scares me.”
Dutto finished the opening stage 107th with a time 57:13s from the leader.
His lost time in Stage 2 was costly as he finished 130th with a time of 7:09.52s, and is now 124th in the general classification at 4:29:57s behind leader Joan Barreda Bort.