Dakar: All is set for the start

Under the bright sun of the South of France, the Telefonica Dakar took a whole new aspect with the vehicles taking to the track. In front of thousands of fans massed around the 1km parallel track of the Parc Chanot, the 343 competitors take off...

Under the bright sun of the South of France, the Telefonica Dakar took a whole new aspect with the vehicles taking to the track. In front of thousands of fans massed around the 1km parallel track of the Parc Chanot, the 343 competitors take off for a prologue in Marseille immediately followed by a 264km liaison taking them straight to the city of Narbonne, via Nimes. After two days of scrutineering in the Parc Chanot of Marseille, 490 vehicles (including 147 assistance vehicles) have been allowed to start the Telefonica Dakar: the biggest number of the last 15 years. A total of 986 people will be competing (pilots and co-pilots).

Let the race begin! After two days of technical and administrative scrutineering, every thing is set for what promises to be one of the most exciting Dakars ever. Competition director Hubert Auriol could be well satisfied of the first days in Marseille.

"A special thanks to all the people working in the technical zone. There's been a special effort in the quality of preparation of the cars with a lot of new vehicles. Every single vehicle went through the technical scrutineering. Only 2 bikes and 2 cars failed to show up."

In the bike category, 162 competitors were authorized to start the race. Winner of the previous edition, Italy's Fabrizio Meoni (KTM) will be riding with the traditional number 1 bib and leading the 95 KTMs of the race (58% of all the bikes). And in a world of men, quite a few chears will certainly be welcoming the courageous two women on bikes, Astrid Pichegrain (KTM n.157) and Patsy Quick (Honda n.100), for their first experience on the rally.

On four wheels, 130 competitors added to the 73 assistance cars will start their two and a half week journey to Egypt from the south of France. 130 drivers including a dozen that will be fighting it out for victory in North Africa. Among them two favourites in Masuoka (Mitsubishi n.200) and Peterhansel (Mitsubishi n.206) and a lot of hungry contenders in the Nissan, BMW and Schlesser teams.

But certainly Hubert Auriol's biggest satisfaction concerns the trucks. Of the 51 vehicles (added to 74 assistance trucks) planned to start all will be on the start line of the Parc Chanot prologue.

"It's a real satisfaction. They are all very close to normal road trucks. New regulations were set and they have all respected them."

And to start the year and this 25th edition of the race, Marseille's Parc Chanot features a spectaculor night prologue on a parallel 1km track.

"The choice of an evening prologue is to allow people to wake up, but more seriously because the show will be even better under the floodlights of the Parc Chanot", admited Hubert Auriol in a press conference.

Starting from 17h10, Steve Vandenberghe (Yamaha n.184) and Ricardo Leal Dos Santos (Yamaha n.183) will have the privilege of starting the show. The order of play will then see every biker take off two by two every 1min30 finishing with a interesting clash between Fabrizio Meoni (KTM n.1) and Alfie Cox (KTM n.2).

Ten minutes after the Italian and South African, Hiroshi Masuoka (n.200) will be testing his Mitsubishi 'Evo' against Japanese compatriot Kenjiro Shinozuka (Nissan n.201). After the last cars, it'll be time for the trucks (at 21h06) to take over starting with the lowest numbers. A real first taste to this Dakar although only the positions for the next special will be taken into consideration but not the times.

-aso-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Hiroshi Masuoka , Fabrizio Meoni , Alfie Cox , Hubert Auriol