Dakar: Gauloises Racing preview

The third day of scrutineering, the day on which the list of competitors is finalised, was also one for challengers with high hopes. Whereas the official favourites filed past in perfect order yesterday, all sorts of rebels declared their...

The third day of scrutineering, the day on which the list of competitors is finalised, was also one for challengers with high hopes. Whereas the official favourites filed past in perfect order yesterday, all sorts of rebels declared their intentions to rock the boat of the established hierarchy. The most assiduous, and also the most credible, were lined up behind Sven Quandt, team manager with BMW X-Raid. The three drivers who will be at the wheels of the new X3 are simply aiming for a place in the top 5, where we know the positions will be keenly contested this year. After all, Jutta Kleinschmidt, victorious in 2001, Nasser Al Attiyah and Guerlain Chicherit, 9th in the general rankings and winner of the last special stage in 2006, can all harbour serious ambitions.

Jean-Louis Schlesser, a rebel against established order by nature, who in spite of what might be said is still the last person to beat the Mitsubishis, in 1999 and 2000, proudly presented the latest baby from his workshop to the watching photographers. Readily provocative, the former F1 driver described the transformations made to his famous blue buggy which he would like to see on the podium in Dakar.

Looking around him at the rows of cars parked in the waiting enclosure, Schlesser could already claim a certain amount of pride in having worked for many years to promote two-wheel drive buggies. This year, twenty-four 'customised' machines will be starting out from Lisbon with the aim of making their difference count in the dunes, thanks to technology that is generally well-suited to sand. Amongst them, "Schless" is the direct inspiration for the single place buggies prepared by Philippe Gache. The basic idea, which involves the production of a machine somewhere between a motorbike and a car, has in particular won over Philippe Monnet, who is making his comeback on the rally after seven years away. The five solo-drivers racing under the Gache banner almost grabbed the prize for the most gasps generated amongst the Portuguese spectators. In the end, this 'trophy' was won by the driver Simon Jean Joseph form Martinique, who appeared behind the wheel of a superb creature already nicknamed the "pink grasshopper". Let's see in what state this fine insect will arrive in Dakar.

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jean-Louis Schlesser , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Philippe Monnet , Philippe Gache