After a general briefing meeting, a superb start show and a first 377 km-long drive en route to Victoria, the contenders enrolled in the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile will start competing tomorrow in a first stage ending in Cordoba.
The weight of the challenge is now palpable. Last year was mainly dedicated to peparing for this moment. But now, after a quiet and conservative New Year’s Eve, the 407 drivers, riders and teams are starting the new year with only one thing in mind: making their Dakar dream come true this year. In the morning, the solemn atmosphere of the general briefing by Etienne Lavigne, which brougt together – for the first and last time in a single location – all contenders enrolled put them all – a little more still – in a winning state of mind. In order to reach their goal, all of them will have to deploy maximum strength and energy, and energy is what they sure received massively on the occasion of the presentation to the public. Since 2009, the start show takes place at the foot of the Obelisk located on the 9 de Julio Avenue and has always been a fantastic success. A million of Porteños, who have become the most fervent fans of the Dakar, came in to encourage the contenders enrolled for the adventure, said the tourism office of Argentina; contenders that sure cannot remain untouched by this collective declaration of love for them and what they are undertaking. The end of the first day, which was only a prelude to stage 1 means that the vehicules have driven their first kilometers in the raid already. Of the 9,000 km to cover, today’s stretch only made some 377 km to reach Victoria on the banks of the Rio Parana. This is the place where the contenders are now discovering the first bivouac where they shall only rest for a short while. Tomorrow, the bearer of Number One, Marc Coma, has been summoned to a 4:20 AM start en route to the day’s special stage in Cordoba. Then and then only will the fight for the top really begin!
Francisco Chaleco Lopez: “I am ready!”
“Being able to finish third in the last Dakar was a great reward but it does not mean the pressure is on for this year’s edition. This being said, those around me expect a lot from me… that is true. But I also expect a lot from this year’s Dakar. My greatest comfort is that I have always enjoyed support when things were going right but also when things were going less right. People expect performance but they also understand how difficult this race is. In three participations and after two withdrawals, I have understood that I had to get used to the Dakar, to know it well before being able to aim for the top. That takes several years but now I am ready. The bike is good, the team is up and running, ready for action.”
Alain Duclos: “Reach the Top 5”
“Aprilia’s proposal came at the right time because of the switch to 450cc. For the time being, we do not have many points of comparison as our bikes were not able to take part in the Morocco Rally to race against the new KTM but on paper we are OK. My goal is – obviously – to reach the Top 5. But in this race, any goal can evolve. In order to aim higher I would have to become a pro rider. The difference with the other riders in my league is physical preparation. I have the chance of being pretty fit but after days working 8 to 10 hours, I cannot work out as deeply and as much as I would want to. This being said, the experience I am starting to have in this raid compensates for my limited physical préparation.
Leg of tomorrow : Sunday, 2nd January > Leg 1: Victoria – Cordoba
Bikes – Quads : Road section, 566 km Special, 192 km
Cars – Trucks : Road section, 566 km Special, 222 km
Most of the journey will have been made the day before, but the road section to the starting line of the first special stage is still long. Once the competitors have got down to the nitty-gritty, their engines will start to heat up along a very quick portion. They will need to be more and more technically proficient on a route that then becomes mountainous. In order to limit the amount of overtaking on narrow tracks, a special route has been drawn up for bikes and quads in the middle of the stage.