Rally team shares saluki name

By Gus Bode

While Carbondale’s Salukis were wallowing in a torrential downpour Monday night, another group of Salukis were recovering from spending four days in the brutal desert of the United Arab Emirates.

Team Saluki, an amateur motor sports team based in Dubai, competed in the United Arab Emirates Desert Challenge, October 11-15. They finished seventh out of 52 teams and were the highest ranked amateurs in the grueling competition, showing Saluki spirit doesn’t reside only in Southern Illinois.

The founders of the team, Mark Powell and Dave Pryce, destroyed SIU’s monopoly on the Saluki name in 1997 after the formation of the rally team.


After forming the team, the next logical step was a name – a name that needed to indicate power, endurance and speed in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Team Camel hardly seemed to fit. Spitting on competitors, as camels do, barely seemed intimidating.

But then the Saluki, an animal bred for speed and endurance in the desert, was struck upon. Team Saluki was born, and SIU unknowingly gained a distant comrade in the world of Saluki sports.

SIU’s Salukis and Team Saluki couldn’t be more opposite. Team Saluki calls the UAE home, its members are British and to them football is soccer. Of course, they also traverse miles upon miles of sand in temperatures reaching 115 degrees, an activity not readily available in Carbondale.

One thing that is undeniably shared by the Saluki teams is dedication.

Tim Ansell, a navigator for Team Saluki, said the entire team is responsible for success. The mechanics, navigators and drivers all play huge roles in a race.

Ansell’s role includes plotting out the course to be tackled on any particular day. From sharp curves to stomach-turning drops, everything must be analyzed for the team’s safety.


“That way there are no unpleasant surprises like a steep drop after a right fork,” Ansell said. “This happened to one of our competitors, and it made a mess out of their car. They were OK, thank God, but they were out of the race.”

Adding to the roller-coaster ride of sand dunes is the threat of dehydration. Ansell and Powell spend five to seven hours in fireproof overalls, confined to a vehicle that could boil eggs on its dashboard. Water is a necessity.

“I drink three or four liters of water an hour, and go to the bathroom every 15 minutes,” Ansell said.

Although the frequent bathroom breaks might be an annoyance, the alternative to drinking one’s own weight in water is not an option.

Ansell said a 23-year old bike rider died of heatstroke while in the desert.

So rally racers spend hours in a car, deal with dangerous desert conditions and develop overactive bladders.

Why do they do it?

“Driving in the sand is something we do reasonably well,” said Powell, the driver for Team Saluki. “It’s like all things in life – if you find something that appeals to you, you pursue it.”

In Team Saluki’s pursuit they have gained sponsorships, overcome professional rally racers such as Colin McRae and earned the title of “First in the Gulf.”

They even have their own fight song, “We are Team Saluki,” penned by Ansell.

“Leaping off the sand dunes into the air

Driving through the wadis like we just don’t care

Judging by the state of our underwear

We are Team Saluki.”

It’s obviously a little different from SIU’s “Go! Southern Go!” but it is a fitting song for the hobby these people enjoy.

Ansell, a former football player himself, said he was glad to see the success of the Saluki football team after visiting the official website recently.

“Now that our big race is over, I’ll be paying more attention,” Ansell said. “Go get em’ Salukis.”