Bombardier very strong in Dakar.

A few competitors live to tell the story, while many more need to digest the pain of not being able to finish the 2003 Telefonica Dakar that ended in Sharm El Sheik in Eastern Egypt today, after what felt like an endless 8550km of sheer hell.

Today's special stage over 34km was relatively easy and more of a parade lap for those who conquered the desert; with the only bit of real glamour in the world's toughest motor race, the chance to drive onto the finisher's podium and receive the Dakar trophy. With the highest number of accidents and trauma seen over the past few years, the 2003 race goes into the history books as the West to East race through Africa.

The breathtaking views that most of the competitors never saw and the waves in the desert taking its victims with big names such as Vicus van Deventer, Kenjiro Shinozuka, Alfie Cox and the young Dutchman Gerhardus De Rooy falling prey to the killer desert, naming a few only. Finally another big name, six times bike winner, Stephane Peterhansel falling hit a rock yesterday, costing him the lead and his seventh win in the Dakar.

In the quad category the fight was between two-times winner Vicus van Deventer of South Africa on a DS 650 BAJA Bombardier and the custom built 850cc Yamaha of Czechoslovakian Josef Machacek. In the end it was Van Deventer who was forced to retire only two days before he reached the rest day where a brand new engine was waiting for his beautifully turned out red and yellow racing machine

"Bombardier will be back next year and they will be the quad to watch," said a confident Van Deventer after his return to South Africa.

Bombardier was however running strong in the hands of Frenchman Antoine Morel, Eudalo Noe Tubau of Spain and Dominique Bourdon also from France. They managed to secure third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

Canadian manufacturer, Bombardier, very well known for their Rotax aviation engines and a favourite worldwide in go-carting power-plants has a race winning machine in their "off-the-shelf" BAJA racer. With the testing and experience gained in this year's Dakar they will definitely attack the next one with more ferocity in an attempt to clinch the evasive title, which is well within their grasp.

On 1 January 2003 150 motorcycles, 15 quads, 128 cars and 48 trucks started the race in Marseille, France; 19 days later 88 motorcycles, 10 quads, 61 cars and 27 trucks completed this gladiator event.

Tomorrow the planning starts for the 2004 Dakar, meetings in many boardrooms will discuss strategies, budgets and plans, because Africa has a year ahead to re-arrange the dunes before the princes of the desert will take on the challenge again.

-barbardier/cvz-