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.
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!