Saturday, March 2, 2024

Paraplegic rider Juan Nimo to run Desafio Ruta 40

Juan Nimo will be a unique face when the World Rally-Raid Championship visits his native Argentina for the Desafío Ruta 40 in August as he will pilot a Honda Tornado with a special setup to accommodate him due to his paraplegia.

Nimo is paralysed from the waist down, the result of a spinal cord injury and five vertebra fractures sustained in a 2006 motocross crash. The accident ended a burgeoning career in the discipline, having become a professional rider just two years prior at the age of sixteen, and has left him in a wheelchair since.

Although unable to use his legs, he eventually resumed to extreme sports and racing after a lengthy rehabilitation process, competing in TC Pista Mouras with hand controls; such a tactic is also employed by drivers with similar injuries such as Robert Wickens in IMSA. He finished seventeenth in the 2022 TCPM standings.

Of course, piloting an off-road bike with paraplegia is a different challenge from pavement touring cars. As bikes are already powered using hands cranking the handlebars, Nimo does not need to rely on his legs as much as one typically would in a car. As such, when he made his return to enduro and sand racing, his bike did not feature heavy modifications.

On the other hand, his rally bike features a metal frame-like rig that is connected from front to back, the latter also doubling as a backboard to keep him steady. He brought the bike with him to the Rally de la Scaloneta and Rally Santafesino Pujato in early June, a month after unveiling the vehicle and his plans to run the Desafío Ruta 40.

“At the Desafío Ruta 40, this will the first time that a racer has a disability and is in a wheelchair, let’s just say that it is my responsibility on a motorcycle, the first in history that we are at least going to try,” Nimo told Pujato Digital at the Rally Santafesino. “[…] For the rally, I presented myself an objective and I said, ‘Well, let’s go for that, but it had to be something significant and important,’ especially after ten years, what are they going to do this year and then I made the decision.”

The Desafío Ruta 40 runs from 28 August through 1 September.