News: Dakar

10 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on News: Dakar

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A Record Number Of MINIS … And Motivation To Match


With 12 cars at the Start, including the Minis of Stéphane Peterhansel and Nasser Al Attiyah, X-Raid lines up as the team to beat in the Dakar 2014. However, the fortress could be besieged by the rapidly developing buggies, or perhaps by the Toyota of Giniel De Villiers.

That is what we can call an ‘Armada’. X-Raid has 12 entries in the Dakar, 11 of them Minis, i.e. the car that has shown its superiority in the last two editions of the rally. At the wheel of these winning machines, 5 drivers have already been in the elite Top 5 of the Dakar: Orlando Terranova (5th in 2013); Krzysztof Holowczyc (5th in 2009 and 2011); Joan ‘Nani’ Roma, winner on bikes 10 years ago and 2nd in cars in 2012; and, above all, two previous winners of the race: Nasser Al Attiyah in 2011 at the wheel of a Volkswagen, and the master of the discipline, eleven-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel, with 6 titles on a bike and the last 2 in the team led by Sven Quandt.

The duel promises to be between Peterhansel and Qatari ‘recruit of the year’ Al Attiyah, who has fallen for the charms of the Mini after his buggy experience last year. Nevertheless, the temperament of the three other top-line competitors in the group makes for a fierce battle that will set the race alight … not forgetting the internal battles that sometimes work against teams!

As a result, the rivals who already showed their teeth in 2013 will not necessarily have to depend on problems experienced by the Minis to have a go at the podium. Toyota claims that the developments made on the Hilux have made it even more competitive. As if that were not enough, Giniel De Villiers – the winner of the first Dakar in South America – did a nice warm-up by finishing 3rd and then 2nd in the last two years!

The South African has certainly earned his stripes and is up there in the front row of pretenders to “King Peter’s” throne. Another discreet but very steady competitor is the Portuguese Carlos Sousa, leader of the team of official Chinese manufacturer Haval. His ambitions are probably focused on the medium term, as is the case of Ford with Lucio Álvarez from Argentina.

Another style, but with the same level of conviction … there are more and more buggies, driven with panache and a certain kind of efficiency to make the walls of X-raid’s fortress tremble. Philippe Gache, who got two of his new buggies into the Top 10 last year, is aiming even higher for 2014 and has perhaps given himself the means to achieve it by attracting 2010 winner Carlos Sainz to his team.

The options are also wider in two-wheel drives, with Eric Vigouroux’s development of a vehicle designed last year by Damen Jefferies: it had already won four stages in its initial version with Al Attiyah and Sainz at the wheel. Now with better reliability, his two ‘Colorado’ prototypes will be driven by BJ Baldwin, the American off-road star, and Guerlain Chicherit, recruited at the last minute by the Franco-American team.

Finally, Robby Gordon has reduced the volume of the Hummer he will line up with in Rosario, but without losing an iota of motivation to try and upset the hierarchy. Watch this space.

Dakar Digital: Live The Rally On Any Screen


The media success of the Dakar has been evident in all formats since it started. This success now continues in the digital domain, which attracts web surfers in their millions and creates an enormous community on social networks in the process. In 2014, fans and followers will be able to get right into the heart of the rally. a new-look mobile app

Allowing web surfers to follow the Dakar as it unravels is the mission of the website. It provides live information from the start of each special stage until the arrival of the first trucks through a series of dispatches that is updated daily. Fans of the rally will be able to simultaneously see the classification, interviews with key drivers/riders in each stage, the experiences of amateur competitors or behind-the-scenes shots of the event’s organisation in the ‘Dakar Mag’ section.

All the official videos of the rally will be available every day on the official rally website, and also on the dedicated channels set up on YouTube and Daily Motion. In 2013, there were 5 million hits on video clips of the rally. The content published on (classification, positions, stage maps, photos, videos, etc.) is also available on the mobile app, which has been redesigned this year.

It is still free of charge and can be used on any iPhone or Android smartphone.

Facebook and Twitter: right inside the bivouac

Almost 850,000 fans on Facebook and over 100,000 subscribers to Twitter have already decided how they are going to participate in the Dakar. On Facebook, the key moments of the race will be relayed from the stage and a ‘Pic of the Day’ will be selected from among the photos taken by spectators along the way. This year the official Twitter account will relay key information throughout the day, and bulletins, interviews and other updates will be published on the website in three languages (French, English, Spanish).

Exclusive daily bulletins will also be sent to followers so that they can see what is happening in the bivouac at the end of the day (#insidedakar), ask the competitors questions directly (#askdakar) or follow night-time arrivals (#dakarnight). All the information on Twitter will be included under the official hashtag #dakar2014.

Another new feature is that the content simultaneously published on #dakar2014 and Twitter, Instagram and Facebook will be added to the My Dakar digital platform at An official account has also been created on the social network BBM (in English and Spanish). A Chinese version will also be adapted for Weibo, a social network with 500 million users!

Despres’ Big Gamble


Although his new Yamaha will have to prove its worth throughout the two-week race, Cyril Despres is still the man to beat in the motorcycle category. Potential usurpers to the throne include comeback kid Marc Coma and fearless fighters such as Chaleco, Hélder Rodrigues and Paolo Gonçalves…

One of the motorcycle riders at the Dakar seems to be head and shoulders above the rest. Cyril Despres is unanimously recognised as a skilful racer, but he has also proved his knack for constantly adjusting his speed to the situation at hand, and Fortune has often smiled upon him at the key moments of his heroic undertakings.

It is just as well that she is on his side, since his next objective is a challenge of epic proportions: the Frenchman aims to equal Stéphane Peterhansel’s record of six wins at the Dakar, but he has left KTM (winners of 12 consecutive editions) for a Yamaha which has delivered lots of promise. but not much else! In this Herculean task, the five-time winner will come up against his nemesis Marc Coma, who was forced to sit out last year’s Dakar due to an injured shoulder but is psyched up to fight for a fourth win which would shift the momentum in his favour.

The Catalan is back at the helm of a KTM team packed with talent and ambition. Ruben Faria and Francisco Chaleco López, the riders who fought for the second and third steps on last year’s podium, will be riding the same motorcycles this time round, just like Jordi Viladoms (fourth in 2012). Yamaha will also be fielding Olivier Pain, who led the race for four days last year, and Frans Verhoeven, always on the prowl.

However, the rally will be more than just a duel between the Austrian and Japanese teams. Another Japanese squad, this one in the colours of Honda, will also be in the mix. Hélder Rodrigues, who has already finished third behind Despres and Coma on two separate occasions, gave the motorcycle its first outing in 2013 and is now going for glory.

Since last January, the team has strengthened its ranks with Joan Barreda, who has earned a reputation as the fastest rider of them all, and rally raid world champion Paolo Gonçalves, winner of the Dos Sertões in Brazil and the Rally of Morocco. More than enough to make Honda the outsiders with the best prospects.

Beyond those vying for the top honours, many a rider will be aiming for a decent overall place. Among them, KTM’s Frenchman David Casteu, Pole Jakob Przygoński and Slovak Ivan Jakes (fourth last year), as well as Speedbrain’s Italian Alessandro Botturi (eighth in 2012). The French Sherco squad is banking on a strong duo to prove its motorcycles have come of age: Joan Pedrero (fifth in 2011 and 2013) and Alain Duclos (sixth in 2010) have both been tasked with making it to Valparaíso in the top 10. It will be anything but easy…

Through the first checkpoint

Chicherit, just in time

Team EV Racing’s first victory has been the surprise element. Less than two weeks before the rally kicks off, Guerlain Chicherit has managed to find a drive to be at the start line … and not any old drive!

For his seventh Dakar, the extreme skiing multiple world champion will be at the wheel of a buggy born in the United States from the partnership between Damen Jefferies (designer of the buggies driven by Al Attiyah and Sainz in 2013) and Eric Vigouroux, and precisely in the seat that the French driver-preparer had initially reserved for himself. “When the opportunity to give Guerlain a drive came up, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. With him and BJ Baldwin, my buggies are in excellent hands.

Of course, I’m a bit frustrated not to be competing myself, but I prefer to secure the team’s future.” For the new recruit, his last-minute registration means that he can aim for the heights again, having finished 8th last year and won a 7th stage in the Dakar in an SMG buggy: “I fought hard to get a drive in the Dakar 2014. It hasn’t been easy, but I simply couldn’t sit at home. The Dakar is in my blood! True, I haven’t competed this year, but my motivation has never been so strong.

So, I’m going to take my time in the two or three special stages after the start to get back in the groove. Then I’ll go flat out. I’m convinced this car has the means to shine, starting from this year.”

The Dakar on tv


“Bringing the dream to those who cannot be there”, as Thierry Sabine said: this is the mission entrusted to the television channels that will broadcast the images of the Dakar to the rest of the world.

The images of the Dakar can surprise, shock and move people. As time has passed, they have conquered the channels of 190 countries, which invite their viewers to watch two weeks of travelling and sporting feats. On this scale, the broadcasting of the rally has reached out to the four corners of the earth and moreover is continuing to improve its audience figures, mainly in the countries directly involved in organising the event.

As a result, the Pan-American broadcaster Fox Sports, a loyal partner since the race’s African era, has been increasing its coverage and resources with each edition. In addition to its overall coverage, its Brazilian and, starting this year, Chilean branches are each day devoting dedicated programmes to their national representatives. In total, on the Dakar 2014, the teams working for Fox total 17 technicians, consultants and journalists, which is the second biggest contingent after the France Télévisions team of 25 people, for programme times of between four and five hours per day.

A newcomer to the route of the Dakar, Bolivia is also a rookie on the event through its public channel Bolivia TV, which, in addition to its daily programme, will be organising ambitious live broadcasts for the stages that the country will host. Revised and enhanced programmes will also be put in place in Paraguay (Téléfuturo), but also in Canada (Sportsnet, RDS), Poland (TVN), Slovakia (RTVS), Portugal (RTP), Italy (Italia 2) and Bulgaria (BNT).

To satisfy viewers’ appetite for thrills, the production teams work each year on improving the quality and diversity of images broadcast, especially during the 26-minute long daily programme, produced with exceptional resources and in record times. Aerial views, interviews with the major players in the race but also amateurs, as well as historical and technical features are just some of the subjects that each day make up a menu that viewers can savour in front of their screens.

Whilst the Dakar attracts television cameras, the written press, radio stations and agencies also flock to the race in large numbers. Their photographers and reporters travel by plane or in press cars. In total, 400 permanent journalists are granted passes to cover the event.


• 3 helicopters and 5 TV cars on the tracks.

• 13 cameramen positioned along the race’s sites, 11 on-board camera systems, 2 super slow-motion cameras (1,000 images per second), 7 satellite antenna, 21 editing suites.

• 45 tonnes of equipment.

• 250 people.

• 120 hours of programmes, 7.5 hours per day including 1 hour 30 minutes of live broadcast.

Al Attiyah to the rescue!


The winner of the Dakar in 2010 has decided to come to the aid of Gilbert Escalé, who it now turns out will indeed be taking starter’s orders for the Dakar with his twin brother Oriol. Like at FC Barcelona, Qatar has taken on a Catalan accent!

The story of the Escalé twins is already somewhat of a soap opera on the Dakar. The two Catalan bikers had planned to ride their dream rally together, but the late withdrawal of one of their main sponsors forced them to choose which one of them would ride the only bike still accessible for their budget. Chance smiled on Oriol, condemning Gilbert to content himself with a place in a press vehicle.

Published on the web site, the tale had soon done the rounds of the newspapers, in particular the Spanish ones, until it was noticed by Lucas Cruz, co-pilot to Nasser Al Attiyah, who was involved in testing in Germany: “I told him this quite remarkable story and he immediately asked me if I had their phone number. I made sure I found it and then called them. They told me they had money problems, so I said that Nasser was ready to help them. So there wasn’t a problem anymore!”

At the other end of the line, Gilbert could hardly believe what he was hearing. The following day, he had just about got his head around the change in fortunes that has put him back in the saddle: “I’m over the moon. What’s happened for me is a miracle. Fifteen days ago, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to race, but now everything’s ok. Nasser is a wonderful guy.

All he asked in return was for me to wear the colours of Qatar on my coveralls and I’ll be doing that with plenty of pride. What’s more, my brother is so happy that I’ll be with him so he’s going to do it too” . Having returned to Doha after carrying out the final fine-tuning on his Mini, Nasser is delighted to have put a smile back on the faces of the two 21-year olds: “First and foremost, I’m a Dakar driver and I know how bad they must have felt to see their plans fall apart.

I had the opportunity to help them, so I didn’t hesitate. In fact, I’ll be keeping a close eye on them. I know they are both talented and it may turn out that I’ve given my backing to a future winner of the Dakar” . As the Olympic shooting bronze medal he won in the skeet event shows, he has a good eye.

Gilbert has found himself an ideal sponsor.

How Long Will Marcos Still Be The Boss?


Among the 40 quads to start the rally, more than 60% of which are South American riders, there will be many challengers for the podium. The phenomenal Marcos Patronelli is still the major favourite to defend his title, but the competition seems likely to rock the boat…

Alone or together, as a duo or in alternation, the Patronelli brothers have been all-conquering in the quad category for the last four editions of the Dakar. Last January, it was Marcos who represented the clan, with the efficiency that is now synonymous with the family’s reputation. From the second day, the Gaucho took control of the race and then in the space of four stages built a lead of more than an hour, enabling him to manage the situation and win his second title in Santiago.

With 14 stage victories (without hardly breaking into sweat!) in five participations, Marcos Patronelli has become one of the major players on the Dakar, in addition to taking on the role of Argentinean flag-bearer. He will again have to live up to this responsibility when lining up on the starting line in Rosario on 5th January. Despite his traditional calm and collected appearance, the determination of the boss is without doubt.

However, there are many challengers waiting for Marcos to make a mistake or even to try and out-race him.

His South American neighbours have shown themselves to be the most threatening and are gaining in confidence each year. In 2013, Ignacio Casale climbed on to the second step of the podium, confirming the promise he already had shown in previous years. The Chilean has since won the Desafio Inca in Peru, whilst one of his Argentinean rivals, Lucas Bonetto (4th in 2013) won the year’s other Dakar Series race, the Desafio Ruta 40.

Respectively aged 26 and 22 years old, they represent the emerging generation of Latino quad riders ready to do battle. Unless, of course, the precociousness of Jeremias Gonzales Ferioli, a tender 18 years of age, does not grab the glory: on the Desafio Ruta 40, the boy from Cordoba grabbed a 6th-placed finish!

The ambitions of the young challengers are clear, but some experienced riders also intend to resist this new wave, and even take on the leading roles. This will be the case for Polish rider Rafal Sonik, again 3rd last year and still driven by the same appetite for victory. Dutchman Sebastian Husseini may have made his debut last year on the event, but managed to stay on the tails of Marcos Patronelli for the first five days before losing ground and finishing the race in 6th position.

He will legitimately be aiming for the podium too.

Streamlined for the big time

After having left the Dakar in 18th position for his return to the event in 2013, Eric Vigouroux has totally changed his approach to designing his vehicle. Alongside Damen Jefferies, the two neighbours in California have produced two buggies capable of springing surprises, one of which will be driven by the American star BJ Baldwin.

Just turned 18 …

Warm-up tour

In the course of a three-day ‘express tour’ of the three countries that will host the rally in January, the Dakar has tested the temperature of the public’s interest as the event approaches. Basically, Etienne Lavigne and his tightly-knit team were able to feel a great wave of enthusiasm, starting in Bolivia last Tuesday.

As a testimony to the importance of the Dakar’s first appearance in the country, Bolivian President Evo Morales personally lent his support to the 8 competitors and teams who will be Bolivia’s ambassadors during the race (see our article on 11th December). The following day, the motivation of the Chilean competitors was evidenced by the large number of journalists present in Plaza Sotomayor in Valparaiso, where the finish podium of the 36th edition of the Dakar will be held on January 18th.

On this occasion, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera promised to welcome his country’s racers as heroes “with 500,000 spectators expected for this magnificent spectacle” . The crowd may be even bigger because Chile has some candidates for the podium, with – of course – Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López in bikes (he finished 3rd in 2013) and quad biker Ignacio Casale, who finished second to Marcos Patronelli last January. Casale took advantage of the forest of microphones thrust at him to lay down the gauntlet: “I am proud that Chile is hosting the finish of the Dakar again.

I’m ready, believe me, and I am going to give it my all to try and bring some joy to my country.” For the Argentinians, the rendezvous was held in the country’s ‘temple’ of motorsport, the Automovil Club Argentino (ACA) in Buenos Aires. Welcomed by Tourism Minister Enrique Meyer, the Argentinian competitors �’ headed by Orlando Terranova and Javier Pizzolito �’ were inspired by the spirit of Juan-Manuel Fangio to give them the energy they will need during the two weeks the rally lasts. They all have their sights set on Rosario now!

Will The New Kamaz Repeat Their Triumph?


With his eyes full of tears on the podium in Santiago, Eduard Nikolaev put the shine back into Kamaz with his first success in the Dakar last year. The time is approaching to confirm that victory, but Gerard De Rooy and a long list of Dutch drivers intend to make life difficult for the Kamaz team.

With his eyes full of tears on the podium in Santiago, Eduard Nikolaev put the shine back into Kamaz with his first success in the Dakar last year. The time is approaching to confirm that victory, but Gerard De Rooy and a long list of Dutch drivers intend to make life difficult for the Kamaz team.

It was a light soft shot, not a hard blow. The day Vladimir Chagin retired after seven wins in the class ushered in a difficult time for the Kamaz team, which had to undertake a renewal of drivers who had not shown their full potential yet. The following year – 2012 – Gerard de Rooy’s win, with no Russian presence on the podium, confirmed how difficult it was to look ahead to the future.

However, normal service was restored in the last edition of the Dakar, where rising star Eduard Nikolaev managed to get a blue truck onto the highest step of the podium. To round things off, the team showed great form by completing the ranking with Ayrat Mardeev (2nd) and Andrey Karginov (3rd), and all this with an average age of just over 29. A sign of fierce competition.

Aware of the difficulty of repeating the exploit, the engineers from Naberezhnye Chelny have developed a version of their truck equipped – like their rivals – with a smaller engine that is nevertheless just as powerful: “because we turn the page every year” . says the ‘little Czar’ Eduard Nikolaev.

As for 2014’s ‘page’, De Rooy and his teammates intend to write it in a rather more forceful style than last year. Although De Rooy won 6 stages (he had perhaps dreamed of starting a ‘turquoise blue’ era), the Dutchman’s 4th place in the final ranking left him a bitter taste in the mouth. His cousin Hans Stacey, winner in 2007 and second in 2012, is the second trump card in the group.

By slightly moving away from the Eindhoven-based team, one gets the feeling that Kamaz run the risk of being assaulted by an armada of Dutch trucks in teams of differing strengths, but all to be taken seriously nevertheless. After winning his first special stage last January, Peter Versluis is aiming quite a bit higher than his 7th place with his MAN truck, which has been tuned up in the workshops of the Veka team. The Ginaf trucks, completely redesigned and developed since last year, will have the ambitious Wuf Van Ginkel back, and also Martin Van den Brink, to have a shot at the podium.

The wind of technological revolution has not only been blowing over the plains of Holland. The real outsider could well come from the Czech Republic, and people will be watching the Tatra of Ales Loprais very closely. Its bodywork has adopted the vintage look launched by De Rooy two years ago.

Re-christened “Queen 69”, his reworked truck allows him to aim at a podium finish as in 2007. In a nearby rival team, Martin Kolomy was involved in the battle for the podium during the main part of the rally before falling back to 5th place. One could guess Kolomy will make a point to proudly fly the colours of the Czech Republic at the podium ceremony this year in Valparaiso!

Bolivia impatient to get started


To celebrate, slightly in advance, the first visit of the Dakar to Bolivia, Etienne Lavigne was welcomed to La Paz for a presentation where President Evo Morales came to encourage the riders and drivers from his country.

The big day is approaching. In hardly more than a month’s time, the Dakar bivouac will set up camp next to the Uyuni salt pans, where the bikers and quad riders on the rally will be in residence for a historical stay. As regards the ambiance, the Bolivians have already started to show their pride and joy, notably during a presentation conference which was not far off resembling a grand ceremony of support to all the country’s riders and drivers taking part in the rally.

Having come together in La Paz in the lounges of the Radisson Hotel, decked out for the occasion in the Dakar’s colours and brimming with 400 journalists, the 3 bikers and 5 car crews who will be representing the country in January were already able to gauge the support that they will enjoy. Collectively moved by these signs of recognition, the Bolivian competitors’ state of mind can be summed up by the words of their expected leading light, Juan-Carlos Salvatierra. “I’m already sure that I will have an exceptional experience.

It’s a wonderful chance that such a big event comes to our country and that we can take part in it,” explains the biker who finished in 29th position on the last Dakar, stealing the limelight from even the national football team thanks to his performance behind the handlebars. The celebratory ambiance of the meeting took a more solemn turn for the speech given by the President of the Bolivian Republic.

Evo Morales, who made sure he encouraged the riders and drivers in person, believes that the Dakar represents, “a major challenge for Bolivia. It is a superb opportunity to be in the spotlight and share our culture and landscapes with the whole wide world. We promise that everyone will receive a welcome worthy of this event” . To transmit the necessary patriotic fervour to help the competitors with their assignment, the many guests raised the rafters with a rousing performance of the national anthem, sung by every single person in attendance, showing that there is plenty of spirit for success!

Controlling the countdown!


Before the very last preparations and fine-tuning which are always necessary, a decisive week from an organisational point of view has just come to a close for the Dakar. All the teams involved in the smooth running of the rally have received their instructions…

Preparations for the Dakar run throughout the year. The riders and drivers, often racing to raise their budgets, beavering away in their workshops or spending their spare time in fitness centres or swimming pools rather than in a cinema, are perfectly aware of this fact. The same is true, arguably to a greater extent, for the rally’s organisational teams, who are under an absolute obligation to produce results, from the first to the last stage.

In the build-up that precedes the race, a decisive week has just come to a close with a series of general briefings for the members of the organisational teams, service providers and race crew members who will be involved in keeping the “Dakar machine” running from Rosario to Valparaiso. Less than a month from the start of the event, naturally everything has been planned as regards the route, logistics, personnel involved, etc.

However, each and everyone needs to be exactly aware of his or her role in this sometimes complex mechanism and, according to Etienne Lavigne, this is precisely the aim of such meetings. “In fact, it’s a big check-list that we need to run through before take-off, to ensure that everybody is absolutely ready. Each time, this requires explanations, so that the newcomers get a perfect feel of just how we operate. For example, the distinctive features of this year, with several stages having different routes for the different categories, mean that we need to make a precise evaluation of the situation to avoid any unpleasant surprises,” explains the Director of the Dakar on completion of the French stage of these briefings.

Indeed, the series of meetings started in Issy-les-Moulineaux with an overview concerning the ASO teams taking part in the rally. Afterwards, it was almost the entire race HQ, split between the rally and Paris in January, which was brought together to reacquaint themselves with the day-to-day procedure of the event.

To get back into the swing of things, there is nothing like a simulation exercise to anticipate the different types of situations that may occur. “For more than three hours, we worked in real-time on the scenario of a complex stage, taking Salta-Uyuni as an example,” explains Pascal Queiriel, formerly head of the race HQ. “There were around thirty people who were all called upon to react to the safety incidents that occurred according to the respective roles they fulfilled. We planned plenty of different cases, some of which were mightily strange, but which all correspond with situations that we have already experienced: what happens when one of the helicopters breaks down at the start of the stage?

How do you communicate with an injured rider or driver who can only speak Mongolian? We need to be able to find the best solution on the spot, so it is very useful to prepare for this. Making this problem-solving state of mind a habit is a help to everybody” . Thereafter, around one hundred race crew members and race officials came to Paris to listen to the clarifications dispensed by David Castera and Etienne Lavigne.

The second stage of the briefing series will take place in Argentina as from the end of this week, with all the South Americans involved in organising the Dakar.

Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica
Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica

Ullevalseter: “Dancing has been an excellent form of physical preparation”

The Norwegian rider discovered a new talent by taking part in a major TV show. Now comes the time to apply his talents to his bike…

The agility and physical poise of Pal-Anders Ullevalseter have never been in doubt for all those who regularly follow the Dakar. In his first 11 participations in the rally, the biker achieved the not inconsiderable feat of finishing 9 times in the overall top 10, even managing the prestigious achievement of being runner-up in 2010. For many, he is characterised by both his efficiency and his discretion.

However, in Norway, his performances in the dunes of Africa and South America have made him a national sporting icon. As a result, after several previous attempts, the country’s main TV showbiz attraction, “Skal vi Danse”, the Norwegian version of “Strictly Come Dancing”, once again contacted Pal-Anders, and he finally let himself be tempted by the experience. “They asked me three times in the past to take part and each time I said no.

This year, I accepted, to make it easier to attract sponsors. I was very scared when I started it, though, because I don’t have any rhythm whatsoever. I do enough crazy things when it comes to riding the bike!

This season, I had a nasty accident in Qatar in April. I wasn’t able to walk properly before August. In the end, dancing has been an excellent form of physical preparation.

During the programme’s run, we spent between 6 and 10 hours per day dancing” . In the end, the biker/dancer finished in 6th place, a position in which he has also finished four times on the Dakar.

Kaczmarski: I like to set myself tough goals

All eyes on the rookie

A bike for two…

D-day for the Dakar…

Getting to Le Havre already seems like a victory. For many Dakar competitors, the challenge is spread over several months, even several years. With the difficulty in getting a budget together, the meticulous preparatory work on the vehicle, the races and tests that are essential to get the riders or drivers used to the discipline’s requirements, the preparatory stages are often long and tedious before earning a place on the starting line.

For the European competitors, it is symbolically reached when they load their vehicle onto the boat sailing for South America. This year, the road to Le Havre was not an easy journey for everyone. The bad weather currently affecting the centre of France made life very difficult for Patrick Sireyjol, for example, who left Saint-Etienne in the snow on Thursday morning, heading towards Normandy.

At a different end of the scale, keen strategist Robby Gordon, also very thorough when it comes to managing transport costs, has already inflicted a memorable journey on his assistance trucks. After having left his workshops in California and headed to New York, where a first cargo ship took them to Antwerp, the mechanics and their precious cargo reacquainted themselves with Robby in Paris for the presentation of the rally. It was on the road to Le Havre that the American met with his first navigation problems, because he took at least half a day to cover the 200 kilometres between the French capital and the docks!

Dakar 2014: Changing Partners …


The organisers of the Dakar have taken advantage of the announcement of the route of the 36th Dakar to reveal a list of competitors that is full of surprises. Despres with Yamaha, Casteu with KTM and Coma, Al Attiyah back in X-Raid to battle against “Peter”… the panorama has been turned upside down with a series of ‘transfers’ since last January.

The rendezvous is in Rosario, the city where one of the founding ceremonies of the Argentinian nation took place two hundred years ago, long before it saw the birth of Che Guevara, and later Lionel Messi. Next January 5th around 450 vehicles are expected in the city to start the 36th edition of the Dakar. It will be the longest one since the race first arrived in South America.

It will cover more than 9,000 kilometres in total, of which 5,000 are special stages, to finally reach the Chilean port of Valparaiso, a historic travellers’ destination, after crossing the stunning landscapes of Salar d’Uyuni in Bolivia. In terms of kilometres, the altitude record will also be surpassed plus two marathon stages for bikes and quads, whose itineraries have been separated over at least one third of the distance.

Basically, the Dakar 2014 is longer, higher, and harder; the extreme endurance challenge par excellence. In all its categories, the race has already started behind the scenes with out-of-season transfers that will surely upset the forecasts.

Despres goes for it in a challenge à la Valentino Rossi

On two wheels, KTM’s reign has lasted for twelve editions. However, the departure of Cyril Despres last spring deprives the Austrian team of one its trump cards. The team nevertheless maintains a good chance of continuing its domination, with a group headed by Marc Coma. The ambitious Catalan rider, who returns to the Dakar after a dislocated shoulder in 2013, wants to make up ground on his rival by adding a fourth trophy to his collection.

He will be well accompanied in KTM by three former podium winners: Rubens Faria and Chaleco Lopez, respectively 2nd and 3rd in 2013, and also David Casteu, whose two previous experiences at the handlebars of a KTM saw him finish in the Top 5 (2nd in 2007, 4th in 2009). Naturally, KTM’s number of victories will be directly challenged by Yamaha, whose YZF 450 already showed its pace last year.

The five-time winner of the race has taken on the development of the machine during the year, and sets off on a challenge in the style of Valentino Rossi: To try and win a title after changing team. The official Honda team, which had its learning curve in the 2013 Dakar, has also pushed out the boat in its recruitment in its attempt to chase victory: with Helder Rodrigues, it can now count on the ambition of world champion Paolo Gonçalves and the proven speed of Joan Barreda.

Minis: A basket of crabs with golden claws…

Traffic jams are quite likely at the top end of the cars category. The level of competition is such that the Minis’ domination is not guaranteed, but Sven Qandt has taken steps to sow the seeds of chaos within his group. The owner of the X-raid team, who is not very fond of race orders, has convinced Nasser Al-Attiyah to come back, giving us the prospect of a battle for the title with Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma and Krzysztof Holowczyc: a real basket of crabs with golden claws!

Particularly adept at taking advantage of the panic around him, Giniel De Villiers will also benefit from a Toyota pick-up that is showing signs of maturity, after having occupied the last two places on the podium in 2012 and 2013. His team-mate Leeroy Poulter, who is starting his first Dakar, is also considered one of the rising starts in the discipline. As for the 4x4s, Ford’s first steps will be closely watched now that Lucio Alvarez (5th in 2012) has been given the role of leader.

And the buggies will also take part to contribute to the spectacle. if possible in front of the Minis. Carlos Sainz’s ambition has always been to win, and this time he plans to launch his attack at the wheel of an SMG buggy. A similar all-conquering spirit drives Robby Gordon, who will be at the wheel of a new-generation Hummer; a smaller model but highly powered.

The fans of the big ‘ships’ sailing across the dunes will love the show provided by the always-spectacular BJ Baldwin, the recent winner of the Baja 1000.

Russia vs. Holland: A technological revolution in the trucks category

The quad riders could beat a new record of participation, with more than 40 entered. Among then, Marcos Patronelli will try and win his third title. His South American rivals have come closer and closer over the last few years, especially young riders such as Ignacio Casale and Lucas Bonetto.

Poland’s Rafal Sonik is also thereabouts … on two counts, because his team-mate is the only female quad rider, Camelia Liparoti.

In trucks, the triple win by Kamaz in 2013 has really motivated Nikolaev’s rivals to carry out a technological revolution. The Ivecos of Gerard De Rooy and Hans Stacey, winners in 2012 and 2007, may no longer be the main rivals of the Russian ‘Armada’. Wuf Van Ginkel will drive a completely redesigned Ginaf truck, while the Veka team has given Pieter Versluis a Man that has just come out of the workshop, and Ales Loprais has completely revamped his Tatra, now called “Queen 69”. A whole world of promise …

Etienne Lavigne, Director of the Dakar

“The Dakar lives off allusions to history. With this departure in Rosario, in a way we are paying tribute to a phrase of Che Guevara: “Let’s be realistic, let’s ask for the impossible. This year’s route is already a challenge that takes the competitors through Bolivia, the country that is geographically and culturally at the heart of the continent. The Dakar will beat its altitude record, but also the feeling that the rally is really gaining height, and more than just symbolically.”

David Castera, Sports Director of the Dakar

“We know that accumulated fatigue is one of the most complex factors to deal with in the Dakar. With an average of 50 extra kilometres to be covered every day in comparison with the previous edition, we could say that we have increased the level of difficulty by one or two notches: these extra kilometres will affect everyone! That is part of the spirit of rally raid.”

The meaning of history


We are creators. The aim of the Dakar is to build bridges, to create links between those who are sensitive to the beauty of wide open spaces and the image of the physical and mental challenge embodied by the drivers and co-drivers.

We have being pursuing this objective for the last 35 years with an unyielding determination to pass on this passion. As the final preparations get underway, the observation is always amazing and moving: the Dakar brings people together. We will welcome around 450 vehicles at the start of the rally, representing more than 50 nationalities!

And if the image of the Dakar is highly significant,it is because it is based on important symbols which give their rightful place to history.

The 2014 edition will undoubtedly be full of meaningful allusions, beginning with our meeting place, Rosario, where one of the decisive stages in the creation of Argentina took place. It was also the birthplace of Che Guevara, a pioneer of the Dakar in his own way, since his commitment to social change developed when he crossed America behind the handlebars of a Morton 500 motorcycle!

The visit to Bolivia should be perceived as a message addressed to the entire continent, since its founder Simon Bolivar was also the liberator of a great number of neighbouring countries. In the heart of this visit, the motorcyclists will savour a driving experience “between heaven and earth” at Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, highlighting the Dakar’s ability to surprise us and to perpetuate the dream imagined by Thierry Sabine. At the end of their journey, those who have tamed the Atacama Desert in particular will experience the joy and emotion of the finish in Valparaiso, which was historically another capitalfor travellers…

Étienne Lavigne

Director of the Dakar

An extra portion of French fries on the Dakar

Hervé Diers was a sensation in the Dakar 2009. Five years on, the “French fries Shop” will be back on the dunes …

There are several ways of standing out in the Dakar. The most prestigious, obviously, is to fight for the title, but few competitors are able to achieve that. Those who wish to stand out can also produce an original vehicle, turning up at the start line at the wheel of a 2 CV, a sidecar or a scooter! However, the only way to really be credible involves reaching the finish line. That was the little exploit Hervé Diers achieved 5 years ago by finishing the Dakar in … a ‘chip fryer’.

The Northern French driver, who manufactures shop trucks for a living, had already participated four times in conventional vehicles, but he decided to take on his first South American Dakar in a French-fries truck that wowed the Argentinians and Chileans: “We had become one of the mascots of the rally, everyone cheered us on along the route. What’s more, we made it to the end, which gives our joke even more power, people take us more seriously now.” recalls Hervé Diers during the final preparations for the 2014 edition.

In the meantime, this special ambassador of northern France has continued to squeeze the most of the ‘fat humour’ out of his chips with great determination. He has even beaten the world record for the biggest French fries cone, getting together 3,000 potato peelers for the occasion over one weekend! Before embarking in Le Havre in a few days’ time, the most famous inhabitant of Hazebrouk put on a great party yesterday evening for all his supporters, who are already looking forward to seeing the French-fries truck crossing the desert. “There were more than 1,000 people there. People who support me and all take part in our adventure in their own way.” As Hervé explains, “Our challenge is also to promote French Fries, northern France and its people.”

The Dakar cries for Caselli

The official KTM-Red Bull rider who was one of the surprise entries at last year’s Dakar after the withdrawal of Marc Coma had managed a promising debut in a discipline that he was discovering, winning two stages as soon as his first appearance, before clinching the win several months later at the Desafio Ruta 40, the Argentine leg of the Dakar Series. “Special K” who was therefore among the favourites for the next edition of the Dakar, was fatally injured and died at the Ensenada Hospital in Mexico after a crash in the last portion of the race. “This news saddens me even more because back in January, the Dakar had discovered a rider of great talent, but especially a likeable character, humble, who was so enthusiastic. After earning a superb reputation on the tracks of the American off-road races, he admitted been conquered by cross-country rallies” . remembers Etienne Lavigne. The Dakar director, as well as the whole organisation team of the rally, associates their sadness to those of the friends and relatives of Kurt Caselli.

Cyril Despres: “It could go well”

Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica
Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica
Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica
Sherco 50 Enduro Champion Replica

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