As one of the most experienced competitors on the Dakar what do you make of the 2004 Dakar route?
I think it will be extremely hard and I think a lot of the competitors, especially the amateurs, will be surprised by how tough it will be. It will be a hard race just to finish let alone win.
Is it a route that favours the 4x4s or do you think your 2-wheel buggies will have an advantage?
Obviously, just looking at the map, it is hard to say but I reckon that overall it will balance out. Some parts will be more difficult for them, while others will be more difficult for me. Whatever you're driving 11,000 kms over that kind of terrain is a though challenge.
Over the last two years a number of factories teams have started pouring money into rallye-raid -- is it a good thing for you and the sport in general?
As far as I'm concerned, however much money the factory teams spend, my biggest rival is still the desert. If you can get through it without any problems that will show in the rankings -- just look what happened to Peterhansel on last year's Dakar and on the Optic. As far as the sport is concerned it is good in that it increases interest in rallye-raid and brings more TV coverage. My only worry is that it will have a negative impact on the soul of rallye-raid.
What have you planned to fight off the factory teams?
Well we have been developing the V6 all year and it went very well on the Dubai, finishing second and winning a number of stages. In addition we will also have a V8 powered version that is showing a lot of promise in tests.
Finally it was reported recently that you will be retiring after this Dakar? Hard to believe!
Well yes I was slightly misquoted there. What I meant was that I would no longer be entering the World Cup to win. I have won it five times now and what I would really like is to help Jose take the victory, and if that means racing alongside him to help him achieve that goal then that is what I will do. The Dakar however is a different story and as long as I believe I am capable of winning I will continue to enter it.