Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind...
Jean-Pierre Strugo (Mercedes) - Fra - n°220
"This is my 14th Dakar. I started in 1985 and from then on have done all of them except one. It's that same passion that pushes me to start the rally even though it's now more of a race and less an adventure.
I wasn't on the first edition back in 1979 and only started the seventh edition At the time it was a bunch of friends following Thierry Sabine who probably didn't know himself where he was going. It was total improvisation. Today I'm more interested by the competition. If I'm still here after so many years, it's because I want to achieve something in the standings.
I'm part of the T1 production category. Cars that look like the ones on the market. Only we change everything: seats and anything concerning security. We're also allowed to have double suspensions. The engine, the gearbox are the same and it's strictly forbidden to change them. Even if you break your gear box and change it, you then have to change categories and go to Superproduction. You therefore have to be careful.
For me driving a T1 car is part of a philosophy. People ask me why, with my good results, I don't try a Production car. It's simply because in a series car, you have a different way of driving the Dakar. I've already finished a Dakar in 7th spot on a Superproduction car but I'm a lot prouder of my 10th or 12th places in T1. For us it's pretty easy to find sponsors because our team has better chances to finish in the top positions of the T1 category. TV channels come to see us and give us cameras to put in the car whereas in T2 it's impossible to be in the leading positions. After all, people speek more of a first place in T1 than an 8th in T2. The day I won't have the will or passion, I'll stop. That's the advantage of being a privateer. Our category is a race in the race. Added to that, the Dakar is also a way to meet up together around diner on the bivouac. We're all friends which has nothing to do with other motorsports. My dream would be to be the official driver of a team doing the T1 race. For your information the Mercedes car is the only one with air conditioning and automatic windows. But don't tell anyone because otherwise they'll all want to come to T1..."
Johannes Grobler (Renault truck) - South African - n°428
"I'm from South Africa and it's my first Dakar rally.
We haven't had any problems and the dunes were reasonably easy. Except the day when we helped Shinozuka when he had the accident, we drove over the dunes in the night and that was tough but it's the same for everyone. I'm a bit disappointed that I can't drive my racing car because I think that so far we would have done very well. But it was part of the deal to support the three racing cars. It's what I'm doing at the moment and I'm enjoying it. Our T4 truck is there to support the cars and to do so you must be a competitor otherwise you can be disqualified. We also raced a little and we have to stay as close as possible to the trucks in front because it doesn't help to get there a few hours late. With Shinozuka, we lost about 5 or 6 hours to get the truck on its wheels again. But it's also part of the game. Last year I won the championship in the Pick Up truck in South Africa. The previous year Giniel (De Villiers) won but he's obviously the young and upcoming driver.
I've been 25 years with Nissan and that's a long time. They wanted to give the younger driver a chance to see what he can do. I'd still like to drive the Dakar and I think I can do very very well. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that maybe next year I'll get a chance to show what I can do. When I was younger I was looking up to Vatanen as the guy to learn from. I think he's an unbelievable person. I'm learning a bit from him on this event. I like him very much. From the start I was involved in the development of the Pick Up in South Africa so I gave him a lot of help and information.
I didn't think the sand and the dunes were goig to be that tough. We've got tough races in South Africa but here on some days it's a lot tougher. And some of the days are easier. I was surprised I could read the dunes so well. The guys like Fontenay or Masuoka drive very fast in the dunes because they know them. They're very experienced and it counts a lot."