A troublesome race these days, the Paris-Dakar was much more so in the Eighties. The pilots couldn’t depend on the GPS, whereas the preparation as the rescue groups have been minimal. All the components for a younger pilot who is just too certain of himself to place himself at risk.
At the time, Mark Tchatcher didn’t have a notably well-developed driver’s CV: solely two individuals in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 1980 and 1981. But when a sponsor of his staff instructed that he participate in the subsequent Paris-Dakar , he accepts with out hesitation. Asked later about this episode, he admitted that he was not conscious of the dangers concerned.
Mark has a mom mentioned to be rigid: Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Iron Lady has two youngsters: Carole, author and journalist, and Mark, who is quickly described as a younger man dwelling like a dilettante, spoiled by his mom.
The Thatcher title is thus discovered on the entry record for the Paris-Dakar, aboard a Peugeot 504, alongside driver Anne-Charlotte Verney and mechanic Jacky Garnier.
Mark, in the meantime, is a navigator. On the beginning line, he reveals his confidence: “I did Le Mans. The Dakar is a formality for me,” he assures us. With his crew, he left the Place de la Concorde. Direction: Dakar.
After solely two days of racing, nothing stays of the younger Englishman’s confidence. A half-day of testing in the Paris area couldn’t put together him for the rigors of rally-raid. The days are hellishly sizzling, the nights freezing chilly.
Above all, the navigator can’t learn a map. The Peugeot 504 have to be content material to comply with its opponents pitifully, clinging to their tracks in the sand.
It was in such a convoy, on January 9, between Tamanrasset and Timiaouine, that the accident occurred. The automobile hits a massive rock. The rear axle is torn off: it’s instantaneous abandonment.
For lack of higher means of communication, the different pilots observe down the coordinates of the shipwrecked crew. The latter assume they’re saved: they think about that the organizers will probably be there by evening, with the broom vehicles.
It is not going to be. The Peugeot 504 had strayed too removed from the principal monitor when it was hit. Nobody involves get them.
Worse nonetheless, the crew had left with out a reserve of water that day, Mark having inadvertently forgotten to refuel it …
Members should resolve to ration what little they’ve: radiator water to drink, tires to heat up.
Panic at 10 Downing Street
At the identical time, at 10 Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher was knowledgeable of her son’s disappearance. After a few days with no signal of life, the Prime Minister begins to despair. It mobilizes all the means supplied by its features.
After a succession of calls, François Mitterrand dispatched three army planes to conduct the analysis. The Algerian navy sends 4 planes and a helicopter. Even Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, is in demand. The disappearance of Mark Thatcher has grow to be a world affair.
His father, Denis Thatcher, ended up going there.
Finally, after six days of analysis, an plane noticed a misery rocket fired by the crew. Pilot Anne-Charlotte Verney attends the reunion: “For the first and last time in my life, I saw a 35-year-old boy take a pair of slaps by his father.”
Shame all the means
The embarrassment doesn’t finish there for the Thatchers. As the crew stops at an Algerian resort earlier than returning, the Algiers international minister calls London to ask the prime minister to settle the invoice. Mark Thatcher left with out paying.
It didn’t take extra to ignite a United Kingdom already in the midst of controversy over the funding of the seek for the lacking crew.
The stain attributable to this mishap will persist.
A couple of years later, in 1987, when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was campaigning for the common election, Mark requested his mom’s press secretary what he may do to assist him. “Leave the country!”, Then throws him the communicator.