Shiliuyun-Xinjiang Daily (Reporter Wei Yonggui) news: Motorcycles rumbled, and dust flied. On more than 8,500 km of racing track in Sahara Desert in Saudi Arabia, Zaker Yakup sped along on his motorcycle.
On Jan. 8, 2023, while the first 8 stages of the 45th Dakar Rally ended, Zaker Yakup was ranked up to No. 59.
35-year-old Zaker is a farmer from Wupu Town, Yizhou District, Hami City, northwest China’s Xinjiang.
He was ranked No. 33 at the Dakar Rally in 2021, which was the highest ranking of Chinese riders at the rally before 2022.
Photo shows Zaker Yakup in the Dakar Rally in January, 2022. (File photo offered by the Wupu Dahaidao Team)
Regarded as “the game of the brave”, the Dakar Rally lasts about half a month, and is a hard race challenging human’s extreme, with only 38% of finish rate.
Zaker said, “Even if I am from the countryside, I can make my dream come true.”
The young man trained hard in the Dahaidao no-man’s land
“I’ll go to the Dakar Rally after I harvest my jujubes in autumn.”
In the spring of 2022, Zaker was seen pruning for jujube trees in orchard with his father Yakup Temur. Pruning requires him to distinguish whether branches need to be pruned or not. Being skilled at using long cane, he pruned two lines after a while.
“Jujube orchard covers a small area of only more than 3 mu, in which several sheep are bred,” said Zaker. As long as he has spare times, he works in the orchard and feeds sheep. “My father is too old to do these works, which could wear his body out.”
Photo taken on March 2, 2022 shows Zaker Yakup prunes jujube branches with his father in orchard. (Photo by Shiliuyun- Xinjiang Daily/ Wei Yonggui)
In 2004, when he was 16, Zaker had his first motorcycle, which was a present from his father. He still feels touched when he is reminded of this.
“My father is an able man. He bought a motorcycle in 1993, and often took me and my two brothers out on the motorcycle. He can build walls, fix houses, weld, and do carpentry,” said Zaker. “Opening-up brings new opportunities, making the life of farmers in Wupu Town better and better and new houses built more and more. My father works day and night, and makes money by his hands.”
Every peasant boy wants a motorcycle, and Zaker is not an exception.
“At that time, I studied in a technical school. One day, my father told me he bought me a motor. I was excited,” said Zaker. The motor was Xingfu 250, costed 5,000 yuan, which was expensive for people in the whole town.
Dahaidao no man’s land is located at Wupu Town, and Zaker rides motor and speeds along the Gobi desert and country road. The extending road takes Zaker farther and farther away from home.
“To be a racer.”Such an idea sprung out when Zaker, who loves riding motor, rode fast on the Gobi desert and country road.
In the next year, Zaker watched the Dakar Rally on TV, The international competition presented something Zaker had never imagined before -- vast desert, floating desert, racers competing fiercely with each other, cheers after race..., Zaker was shocked by those scenes and made an oath that he must go to Dakar one day.
His life has kept changing while the seed of dream was germinating. Zaker practice riding at many places such as desert, gravel tracks, and roads.
His “extraordinary skills” failed in a national competition
“I won my first cup from a track race in Shihezi City, which is very important for me.”
By the central road of Wupu Town, Zaker runs a garage. There are more than 20 cups with different sizes placed here, and the one he gained in 2005, which was his first cup, and he treasures it most.
In 1990s, with the rapid development of Xinjiang’s economy and society, motorcycle track race and cross-country race as newly-developing sports made significant effects on expanding regional influence and promoting the development of culture and tourism industry. Many places started to expand racing fields, tap into resources and hold various contests with different scales.
In 2005, 17-year-old Zaker, who was young and fearless, was ranked top 3 and won a cup in the motorcycle track racing of Shihezi City.
“This cup is an evidence that proves I am able to be a racer, which encourages me a lot,”said Zaker.
Since then, Zaker has been engaged in racing. He keeps training, racing and learning from outstanding racers in and outside Xinjiang that he has known in various races, striving to improve his skills. Speeding and jumping over and over again, he felt he held the whole world when he held handlebars.
Zaker’s figure can be found in motorcycle competitions and events in Tacheng Prefecture, Shihezi City, Korla City, Qira County, etc.
In 2005, the Tour Around Taklimakan Rally was officially founded. It is a national A-level competition event, and was promoted to international competition in 2011. It became an authoritative international competition which is No.1 in Asia and the largest cross-country race involving cars, motorcycles and trucks in China.
In 2008, 20-year-old Zaker decided to participate in the Dakar Rally, to present his “extraordinary skills” he had trained in Dahaidao to the world. However, his first participation in the Tour Around Taklimakan Desert Rally ended so fast in the second stage. It made the young man understand that realizing dreams requires more efforts.
Participating in cross-country rally costs a lot. A top-level rally cross-country motorcycle needs at least more than 2 hundred thousand yuan, and the costs of a racer’s logistic support, service, transport, board and meals are usually more than 1 million yuan. These are enormous figures to Zaker.
Most of the young people who have racing dream have to bow to such cold reality, but it doesn’t bother Zaker at all. From 2008 to 2017, during every off-season, he voluntarily walked among different teams to find some sponsors of a racing motorcycle and logistic support.
Tour Around Taklimakan Desert Rally witnesses the progress of Zaker. In the competition, he had ranked in the top 6 for several times and gained good results. As his racing experience added, he had gradually been ranked the top 10 motorcycle drivers of China. Therefore, he became more and more close to the Dakar Rally.
Speeding in the Dakar Rally
“I am so excited that I almost burst into tears when I heard the national anthem rings and the Five-Star Red Flag rises in the field of the Dakar Rally.”
When it comes to the feelings about participating in the Dakar Rally in 2020, 2021 and 2023, Zaker doesn’t recall the arduousness and pain. He said, “ I had never felt the meaning of being a citizen of such a powerful country. However, after participating in several competitions abroad, I understand that what is more important than having good records in races is that winning honor for our motherland.”
Zaker met the turning point of his racing career in 2017. His love of motorcycle sports impressed Xu Ming, the president of Xinjiang Daming Mining Co., Ltd.
In this year, Xu Ming held a qualification trail of cross-country motorcycle. He promised to Zaker, “As long as you can be ranked in the top 3 in the Tour Around Taklimakan Rally, I will help you participate in the Dakar Rally.”
It made Zaker too excited to sleep all night. In the next day, he closed the garage and started training everyday. “Since then, he has had systematic physical training,” said Ayixemgul Amet, Zaker’s wife.
In 2019, as a member of Xinjiang Daming Minging Team, Zaker was ranked on the third with final records in the Tour Around Taklimakan Rally.
In 2020, Xinjaing Daming Mining Co., Ltd established China Wupu Dahaidao Team to participate in the Dakar Rally. Xu Ming comes from Hami City, Xinjiang, and he wishes to build a tourism IP for Wupu Town and Dahaidao, a natural racing field though the influence of the Dakar Rally.
The team is formed by excellent riders including Zhao Hongyi, Zahng Min and Zaker. Rich experiences of Zhao Hongyi and Zhang Min help Zaker a lot and avoided many dangers. At the first time that Zaker participated in the Dakar Rally, he surprised many people and was ranked on 41st of the rally, which was the best record among Chinese motorcycle riders.
In January, 2021, Zaker wearing No. 41 participated in the Dakar Rally for the second time. At this time, Zaker made another surprise-- He updated the best rank of Chinese motorcycle riders to No. 33.
“Participating in the Dakar Rally means my dream comes true. Now, I will pay full efforts on this world’s top rally to fight for a better ranking for my country,” said Zaker.
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