Lucas Barron will make history this weekend when he becomes the first person with Down Syndrome to compete in the Dakar Rally, one of the most gruelling races in the world.
The 25-year-old will act as co-pilot for his father, Jacques, in tackling the 5,000km, 10-day marathon.
“Our aim is to finish the race and achieve our goal,” he told AFP. “The race is brilliant for me. It will be easy because we know the route.”
The father-son team have been training for the event for more than a year and a half and will compete in the UTV category for off-road four-wheel drive buggies – a class that was first added in 2017.
Barron, who was born in Lima, which will stage the start of the race, will be one of around 500 participants in Peru and said he is confident he will be “able to overcome the desert dunes” with 70 per cent of the course to be raced over sand.
“I’m going to help him look at the engine, the road and the tyres,” said Barron.
Down Syndrome is a disease with can cause lifelong intellectual disability and developmental delays but Barron’s father, himself an engineer who will be taking part in his sixth Dakar Rally, insisted that organisers had no qualms with his son taking part.
“Lucas already has the International Automobile Federation licence to participate in the Dakar,” he said. “He knows how to look at the temperature of the belt, the oil and tyre pressure.
“Lucas’s eyes will be the cars’ eyes to avoid crashing into another car or any object.
“People with Down Syndrome can develop certain abilities: Lucas can play any sport.”
The Dakar Rally begins on January 7th in Lima, with the whole race being staged exclusively in Peru for the first time after Argentina, Bolivia and Chile pulled out as part of austerity measures.