Rebecca Busi, 26, from Bologna, Italy, couldn't stand it for any longer as she watched others accomplish her goal. So, two years ago, she made a decision. "Dad, mum, I'm going to the Dakar," she said, and now she’s become the race's youngest Italian driver. A story that teaches us that no matter what the difficulties are, how much sweat is shed, or how damaged the suspension is, if you want to do it, you can do it.
© Rebecca Busi
We all reach a point in our lives when we realise we can't have it both ways and must make a choice. You’re at a crossroads: you can choose the easy way, the more rational one, the one that everyone wants you to take, or you may take the hard way - the one you don't know, the riskiest, and most frightening.
Rebecca doesn’t hesitate to answer our questions, just as she did two years ago when she chose the most difficult path, which in her case is in the desert and has a specific world-renowned name: Dakar.
"I’ve always been passionate,” Rebecca tells Females in Motorsport. “I grew up surrounded by engines since my father has always raced motorcycles and my uncle has always participated in rallies. When I was 18, I asked my father for a kart for my birthday.”
“I told him there's a Rotax engine waiting in Barberino. He asked what I was going to do with a Rotax engine, to which I answered, ‘put it on the kart, which is also waiting for you in Barberino’.”
© Rebecca Busi
Karting for three years, the discipline didn’t convince Rebecca. The weight of the equipment, needing to train alone, and the constant need for assistance lead her to sell everything.
"I continued to co-drive at my father's rallies, and I believed motorsport was what I liked best, but it was something I could only watch from afar,” she says.
Then, two years ago, the switch.
"I participated in some rally raids as part of the staff, such as the Baja Aragón and the Merzouga Rally, and I told myself that I had to try," Rebecca says. “By this time, I was already old. If I started competing in smaller events, it would’ve taken me years to become someone and prove to myself that I was capable of doing it.
“I needed to spend 20,000 euros to participate in a rally in Spain, so I thought it would have been wiser to double that amount and travel directly to Dakar.”
A bet in which she’s the stakeholder: Rebecca wants to play everything out to show herself and everyone else that she is capable of handling the situation and that this is the best course of action.
"Even if it doesn't work out, it'll be an amazing experience," she says. "I’d just been a navigator and had never driven off-road or on sand before, so when I told my dad, he looked at me in awe and asked if I was okay!"
There are numerous variables at work in the Dakar, and Rebecca can only control her physical preparation. She starts training five times a week, works with a nutritionist, and gives up everything that could distract her from her goal.
“I signed up for the Dakar Classic in July 2021, but following a six-month research period, I enrolled in the Masters in International Business at the EAE Business School in Barcelona,” she says. “I couldn't give up and moved to Barcelona. Mondays through Thursdays, I was in Barcelona for lessons and training, and on Fridays, I was in Italy fixing everything I needed for Dakar.”
Rebecca has been in Barcelona for a year, and the number of times she’s gone out with her classmates can be counted on one hand. She was constantly on the move, wandering between Spain and Italy, and never settling down.
"I spent a week in Morocco, where I rode for the first time on sand,” she says. “The following time, it was in Dakar."
© Rebecca Busi
Thus, Rebecca sets off: destination Saudi Arabia, where the Dakar has been held since 2020.
Many times, she doubted her ability to succeed.
"As this was my first race, I had no idea what I was in for, and every day at the start, I told myself that I wouldn't make it, yet I was always able to cross the finish line,” she says. "Because we started the preparation late, the car wasn’t in peak condition. There was water in one stage, and I was driving with one hand on the cable attached to the windshield wipers."
But, Rebecca succeeds. Stage after stage, she completes the Dakar Rally and crosses the final finish line.
“When I got there, I cried,” she says. “We wasted a day mending the engine head gasket, which had broken over the previous few days. The vehicle was in good condition when we departed, but I had also damaged the left rear shock absorber and the steering damper. I was exhausted. I arrived two kilometres from the finish line and had no idea I had completed it. The navigator reminded me. "
© Rebecca Busi
Rebecca takes a week to realise what she has done. And after that, she decides to do it again.
Rebecca will enter in 2023 with a new perspective: that of a Dakar finisher.
"The next will be the longest since 2014,” she says. “Two new stages have been introduced, as well as two Marathon Stages without help, thus the goal this year is to drive with your head rather than your foot."
At her side, Rebecca will have Giulia Maroni, rally expert and 2021 Italian Cross Country Rally champion.
“Giulia and I met at the last Dakar while she was co-driving another driver,” she says. “After that, I met Marco (editor's note: Zini, manager of HRT Technology) and we hit it off right away. He had a desire to expand the team and take it to the top, which I shared.”
Rebecca needed an expert, so she called Giulia, told her about her goal and where she wanted to be in five years, and Giulia didn't hesitate to follow her.
The couple's next and first challenge will be the Rallye du Maroc, which will take place from October 1-6, and is the penultimate stage of the World Championship.
“It'll make a good testing ground,” she says. “It’ll be crucial to comprehend the level and pace of the competing teams because they’re the ones that’ll compete in Dakar”.
"It seems that until you win, you’re not deserving of being nominated or considered. The issue is that winning requires money, and even just imagining it requires a helping hand, trust, and people who believe in you.”
© Rebecca Busi
At the 2022 Dakar, Rebecca chose to compete with a rainbow helmet inspired by Lewis Hamilton.
"Being in a position of being particularly observed provided me with the urge to give a positive message, and the idea grew from there,” she says. “I was there despite everyone else telling me I couldn't do it, that I was crazy."
For someone starting from scratch, beginning is nearly impossible, but someone believes in Rebecca. First and foremost, her followers.
“They never say anything negative about me, and they always encourage me to give more and more,” she says. “They were interested, so I started a YouTube channel where I want to provide fresh content that isn't on Instagram.”
Then there's the overseas sponsor, which allows Rebecca to compete in Dakar in 2023.
Rebecca has a long road ahead of her, but when asked where she hopes to be in five years, she responds "at Dakar, hopefully on the podium."
And we hope it with all of our hearts.