(irl) 1.83m / 85kg


Skydiving, spearfishing

First participation

2023: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (15th) / Dubai International Baja (6th)
2022: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (28th) / Dubai International Baja (19th)


“I’m trying to go into this with no ego at all”

For the first time in over a decade, an Irish competitor will be lining up on the Dakar as Oran O’Kelly makes his debut in the bikes. The 30-year-old was born to Irish parents in Dubai and grew up racing motocross in the UAE with his four brothers. But when he was 12, the family moved back to Ireland and he stopped riding for the best part of 15 years. It was only in 2020 that Oran decided to get back into the sport and really sink his teeth into rally-raid. He sold a small car cleaning business back home and returned to Dubai, going “all-in” to pursue his Dakar dream. The original plan was to go within five years, but with help from the Vendetta Racing UAE team, Oran has needed only three to prepare himself for the world’s biggest rally, which he discovered as a volunteer for Audi in 2023. He likens his first experience on a rally bike to being “on a boat in the ocean”, but he’s had the opportunity to sharpen up his skills at events like the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which his father John also rode several times in the 1990s. Oran is set to join a very select group of only around 15 Irish athletes to have done the Dakar; the most recent participant was Stan Watt in 2013, and the last finisher was Philip Noone in 2010. To help raise funds and awareness, he recently did an event in Dublin with well-known broadcaster and adventurer Charley Boorman, whose experiences at Dakar 2006 are recounted in the film 'Race to Dakar'. Oran is entering the 2024 edition as one of three riders from Vendetta, along with the hugely experienced pairing of David McBride and David Mabbs, both Dakar finishers in 2022. The team have given him plenty of support, advice and naturally a bit of banter as he gears up for what promises to be a memorable debut, in which his principal objective is to reach the finish line in Yanbu.

“I joined Vendetta for my first proper rally-raid event, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, in March 2022. I was just looking for a bit of advice about doing it in 2023, but I ended up using one of the team's spare bikes and getting really stuck in, straight in at the deep end. In about five weeks, I went from never riding a proper big rally bike to competing at one of the world championship events! There's a really good sense of camaraderie and team spirit within Vendetta, it's all about a bit of good craic as well. The lads have been giving me a lot of stick about Dakar, so I’m taking about 50% of their advice on board and disregarding the other 50%. As a kid, the Dakar was a massive dream and goal of mine. As I grew older, I realised it was a bit of a long shot, probably similar to wanting to be an astronaut and go to the moon. But when the rally moved to Saudi Arabia and I was in a position where I could really make a good go, it all came to fruition. I’m super excited to make my debut this year. I feel incredibly proud and privileged to represent Ireland at such a prestigious event. Being from a very small country that usually punches well above our weight across the broad discipline of sports we participate in, there’s an enormous amount of pressure, but also an enormous amount of support back home. The lads who’ve gone before me have been incredibly helpful. A successful Dakar for me would be completion and getting that finisher’s medal. Everything else after that is an absolute bonus. I’m trying to go into this with no ego at all, and just ride a good, consistent, safe pace every day. I think that is really the key to it, if I’m to take on board what everyone’s said. Especially for the first one, just getting across the finish line after the two weeks would be the ultimate achievement.”




  • KTM
  • Vendetta Racing UAE
  • Vendetta Racing UAE
  • Rally 2

Clasificación 2024


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