The Argentinean police estimated at one million the number of spectators attending the presentation of the 2014 Dakar competitors, which took place on a podium next to the Monumento de la Bandera and the Rosario urban circuit.
110,000 people (members of the public and guests) turned up at the village set up during the three days before the start of the rally, scheduled for this Sunday, January 5, 2014.
Even Carlos Sainz was amazed. A sea of people flooded the participants' 14 km road to the podium, not far from the Monumento a la Bandera, the Dakar Village and the secure enclosure. Rosario's Dakar operation was a success beyond the wildest expectations.
Stéphane Peterhansel, the defending champion in the car category, revelled in the atmosphere: “It gets better and better with every passing year”, he pointed out. However, Rosario also reflected a new development: the crowds now support and cheer on certain foreign competitors as well.
The Patronelli craze has given way to a fan base where the always popular Robby Gordon and the likes of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma feel the energy of the crowds behind them. This turn of events consolidates the rally's place in the South American sporting landscape.
“Tsar” Vladimir Chagin mingled with the crowds behind the barriers to soak in the joyful atmosphere. As his blue trucks rolled by, the manager of the Kamaz armada put on the spectator's hat for a day, smiling and, quite likely, dreaming of the same scene 14 stages down the road on the podium in Valparaíso.