Through Africa on a motorbike

Norwegian rally raid motorcycle rider Pål Anders Ullevålseter aims for third Africa Eco Race victory

Photo courtesy of Pål Anders Ullevålseter
This Norwegian rally racer loves the freedom of riding. In 2002 he became the first Norwegian to complete the Dakar Rally, and this year he hopes to win its successor, the African Eco Race, for the third time.

Cathrine Løvaas
Bergen, Norway

In 2002, Pål Anders Ullevålseter became the first Norwegian to complete the legendary Dakar Rally motorcycle race. His best finish in the race came in 2010, when he took an impressive second-place finish. He then won the African Eco Race, the continuation of Dakar Rally, in both 2015 and 2016.

It is the preparation, over and over again, that creates the magic, he says. He has gone through this process many times and is prepared, both physically and mentally.

The preparation
There is a lot of administration that needs to be done before the race: all the paperwork, the licenses, and the visas. If one of these things is forgotten, it will ruin the whole race.

After the paperwork, there’s the bike. All the instruments, antennas, and the safety equipment need to work. His checklist consists of 200 items to ensure that everything is in the right place.

He does not mind the stress before the race though; as soon as the rally starts, he is done worrying and loves the freedom of riding. He is more relaxed on the bike than anywhere else.

This year’s African Eco Race marks the first time Ullevålseter has not been his own team manager. Instead he is part of another team with Vladimir Kusnier as the manager. On Kusnier’s team there are six drivers and four mechanics. This is a new experience for Ullevålseter, who normally wants to do everything himself to avoid getting stuck in the desert because of a minor detail that can stop his bike and ruin the race.

Photo courtesy of Pål Anders Ullevålseter
Ullevålseter in Monaco.

The race
The African Eco Race started out to replace the Dakar Rally, which was cancelled in 2008 and moved to South America because of security issues in the area at the time. The race aims to contribute to long-term development by integrating environmentally friendly behavior into the daily organization of the race. Some of the vehicles are equipped with solar panels and collect old motor oil in order to recycle it in France after the race.

After leaving Norway, Ullevålseter’s first stop was Menton, France, where the final preparations were made. The race then started from Monaco on New Year’s Eve. The first leg was 400 km long and ended in the city of Sète, not far from the Spanish border. From Sète, the team took the boat to Nador in Morocco across the Balearic Sea.

After finally arriving in Africa, the first racing leg started on Monday, Jan. 2. This was the first of the 12 legs, where the racers drive approximately 7,000 km and eventually reach their destination in Dakar on Jan. 14.

Charity in Dakar
Ullevålseter’s work isn’t done when the race is over though. He has started a charitable project collecting money for a school in Dakar, where the funds raised have been used to build a roof. This is a big advantage when educating the children during the rainy season. He will be visiting the school right after the race, where he is throwing a barbecue party for the pupils and some of his sponsors and may even be able to celebrate a third victory in the African Eco Race. He is happy to give something back to the country where he has had so many great experiences.

Cathrine Løvaas (41) is a Norwegian freelancer from Bergen, Norway. She has a BA in History from Nord Universitet and writes about history, culture, sports, health, safety and environment, cats, and contract law. She runs a company that takes care of pets, and she loves weightlifting, photography, and literature. Meet her at and

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 13, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.