Polish teen becomes youngest ever winner of world’s toughest car race
A Polish teenager has become the youngest ever winner of the world’s toughest car race, the Dakar Rally.
Eryk Goczał, 18, who only passed his test in November, has now been hailed a ‘driving sensation’ after winning four stages in the SSV category of the 14-stage competition and topping the penultimate round, despite an injury forcing him to drive with just one hand.
Close to tears and visibly overwhelmed by the magnitude of his feat, Goczał told reporters afterwards that winning the Dakar Rally was his “biggest dream come true”.
“This Dakar was a real journey, I’ve never felt so many emotions in my life,” he said.
Posting to his Instagram channel, Goczał was still basking yesterday in the warm afterglow of victory. “It’s still hard to believe what happened,” he wrote. “It’s hard to describe what I feel right now.
“I have the Dakar Bedouin trophy in my hand – it’s a symbol of fulfilment of the biggest dream in my life. Awesome.”
In an emotional post his father, Marek – who also competed in the event – wrote: “Eryk broke records that will not be broken for a long time. I am incredibly happy. I’m a proud father and husband. We did this as a family.”
Extraordinarily, Goczał’s elation was part of a wider story arc involving his family. For the previous two-years his father, Marek, and his uncle, Michał, have also taken part in the race.
This time around, they finished third and seventh respectively.
Speaking before the rally began, the youngest of the Goczał racing clan said: “My dad and uncle began this project two-years ago, but I needed to wait patiently because of my age. It’s hard to say how I feel right now, or even how I’ve felt for the last few months.”
Referring to his strategy, Goczał said: “The Dakar is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to approach it with humility and never give up. One bad stage is not the end of the world because the rally is so long.”
Proving unerringly prescient in his thinking, it would seem only his final prediction transpired to be inaccurate: “They say the biggest success in the Dakar is reaching the finish line, especially if you’re talking about your debut in the world’s hardest rally.
“But I’m ambitious and I believe that we can get a good result. The biggest success would be a podium place.”
Culminating in a result beyond his imagination, Goczał used Insta to thank his family and also his co-driver for “leading him for over 8,500 kilometres” before dedicating his win to all those that had enabled his epic win.
“I will never forget his moment,” he added.