Twenty-five-year-old Lucas Barron is set to become the first person with Down’s syndrome to take part in the grueling race of Dakar 2019 in Peru on Sunday.
The Peruvian who will be co-pilot for his father Jacques Barron, will tackle the world’s most demanding rally: a 5,000 kilometer, 10-day marathon, 70 percent of which will be raced over sand.
Lucas Barron, who has been training for a year and a half alongside his father, will ride on one of 500 vehicles taking part in the race which run from January 6 to 17.
He will compete in the UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) category for off-road four-wheel drive buggies, a class that was added for the first time in 2017.
“Our aim is to finish the race and achieve our goal,” Barron told AFP, “This race is brilliant for me. It will be easy because we know the route.”
He is familiar with the Peruvian terrain that will host the entirety of the Dakar rally this year after Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia declined the opportunity due to austerity measures.
Being “ready and able to overcome the desert dunes,” Barron says he will provide important mechanical assistance to his father. “I’m going to help him look at the engine, the road and the tires.”
While Down’s syndrome can cause lifelong intellectual disability and development delays, those with the condition can still lead fulfilling lives.
Barron’s father, a 55-year-old engineer who has competed in the Dakar five times, said that Dakar organizers had no problem with his son taking part.
“Lucas already has the International Automobile Federation license to participate in the Dakar,” said Jacques Barron, “He knows how to look at the temperature of the belt, the oil and tire pressure.”
The requirements were the same as for any other competitor: passing all the medical exams and supplying the necessary documentation.
The father continued, “Lucas’s eyes will be the cars’ eyes to avoid crashing into another car or any object. People with Down’s syndrome can develop certain abilities: Lucas can play any sport.”
Born in Lima, Barron has always been a keen sportsman despite his disability, taking part in swimming, football, cycling, surfing and water-skiing.
Last September, he was co-pilot alongside his father and finished seventh in the Desafio Inca race in south of Peru, in preparation for the Dakar Rally.
The Dakar will start in Peru’s capital Lima and traversing the southern regions of Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and down to Tacna on the border with Chile.
The longest, and toughest stage will cover 370 kilometers from Arequipa to Tacna on January 10.
(With input from AFP)