Dakar: Jordi Arcarons - Repsol interview

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JORDI ARCARONS, LEADER IN THE SHADOW OF A WINNING PROJECT After taking the victory with Nani Roma in 2004, the Catalan Team Manager looks forward to clinching the Dakar title again with the impeccable Marc Coma. Affable and hard worker,...

JORDI ARCARONS, LEADER IN THE SHADOW OF A WINNING PROJECT

After taking the victory with Nani Roma in 2004, the Catalan Team Manager looks forward to clinching the Dakar title again with the impeccable Marc Coma.

Affable and hard worker, Jordi Arcarons is one of the most popular and respected persons of the large Dakar family. Not only by his riders and the rest of the Repsol KTM team members, whom he treats like his own children; he is also admired by his rivals. This 43-year old former rider, born in Vic (Barcelona), knows the desert very well, because he has spent almost half of his life participating in the Dakar, first as a rider and now as the Team Manager of the Repsol KTM team. In his nineteenth participation, Arcarons hopes to fulfil together with Marc Coma a project that started some years ago, which bore its first fruit in November with the Raid World Championship title.

Marc Coma is leading the rally, De Gavardo is third, Sala and Caldecott are fifth and sixth, and Viladoms is improving day by day. Would you say that the set aims are being achieved?

"We're only halfway the race, but for the moment, we've achieved the aims set for the rest stage. The whole team has arrived in Nouakchott and they have done it in leading positions. Everything runs perfect so far. But there's still the other half of the race left and now we're going to plan it according to how the rally is doing."

And which is that plan?

"Considering the situation, our number one rival is Isidre and we're going to plan the rest of the race in this sense. We know his strengths and his weaknesses, which I'm obviously not going to tell, and our riders are going to work in this regard. We have five riders and what we cannot do is to let them disturb each other. We have to do everything possible to make good use of the most favourable stages, such as the next two."

One of the features of this edition of the Dakar Rally is the limited use of the GPS and there are several riders who have got lost. Did you expect more or less riders having problems?

"The rally is being what we expected it to be, a complicated rally as regards navigation where almost all riders have got lost. Navigation hardly using the GPS means a big effort and a major difficulty, because the rider has more work to do, forcing him to reduce speed. I think that it's been a very positive measure and so it seems, because despite difficulties and losses, nobody has complained. The speed limit is something different. The organisation is thinking about not penalising riders for passing 160 km/h and in fact, they are not doing it. There are several riders who have been faster, but they have argued that the GPS wasn't working or that there was no reliable control device for the excess, so the organisation hasn't penalised them. I don't think it's wrong, as long as the same criteria are used for everybody, considering that the excesses are usually a few kilometres per hour, sometimes implying an additional risk for the rider."

Define each and all of your riders, one by one, qualities and shortcomings, and mental and physical shape right now.

"Marc, right now, gathers all physical, mental and riding qualities of a winning rider, that's all in short. He's impeccable. Carlo has some physical problems, but he's all right. His experience and riding style allow him to stand the stages better than some other riders who ride more rigidly. I think that he'll have more trouble in the technical stages in Guinea because he is not as fast in enduro-type stages. Giovanni dislocated a finger yesterday and now he's working with ice, anti-inflammatory medicines and physiotherapy to be ready for tomorrow. He had been doing a very good job so far but I think that it will be complicated for him to keep on fulfilling his supporting job as he's been doing so far. Should Marc be in trouble, Gio would have a hard time changing tyres or doing repairs. Another shortcoming is that he only rides one raid a year, and that's the Dakar, the rest of the year he takes part in enduro races, so he lacks a bit of experience in navigation. Andy is a very fast rider who adapts well to all situations and surfaces, and has good control of the road book. But there are some things he's missing at the Dakar and he isn't physically at a 100%, because he wasn't able to prepare himself much. And last but not least, Jordi is a strong young man, both physically and mentally. He's brave and intelligent when it comes to take decisions. On the other hand, it's his first Dakar so there are things you just cannot explain; he has to live them himself."

They say that Marc owes his performance to his mental strength, do you agree?

"Everything has an influence here. There are several requirements to be fulfilled in order to be the ideal raid rider and all aspects count. I agree in saying that Marc is mentally very strong and he knows how to act in difficult moments, but he's is also physically strong, navigating..."

On what riding level do you consider he is?

"At a very good level, but it's difficult to tell it in figures. It may be an average of 80%. If you go at a 100% you have to follow wheel tacks, because you cannot navigate and ride to the limit, but that's not the way to win. If we take the pace of riders doing navigation, Marc is with no doubt the fastest. It's about having the right pace in order not to get lost."

Carlo De Gavardo has won two stages and is also a firm candidate to the victory. Did you expect him to perform at this level after his comeback with the 660?

"I did because I know him well. This year he has found a very professional team that gives him the moral support, confidence and eagerness, and that's very important for a rider. He feels wrapped-up, assisted and very good with us, and that gave him the push to get clear."

Andy Caldecott entered the team as a replacement for Jordi Duran, and without having hardly any time to prepare, is he surprising you with his performance?

"He is actually surprising us all a bit. We knew that he's a great rider, but we didn't expect him to win any stage nor being so strong. His mission in the team is to be there for whatever is needed, without any pressure for results. That gave him some kind of freedom of movement so far, but now that Gio isn't top fit, he'll also have to act as a support for Marc. Now is when we need him most."

Despite having some mechanical and physical problems, how do you assess the progression of Jordi Viladoms?

"Very good. From the start, his mission was learning and that's what he's doing. He isn't restricting himself to follow the others, because this is not the way to learn. Yesterday was for example a very complicated stage as regards navigation and he did it all by himself following the road book and with a good pace. He's improving a lot and he'll also learn from the problems he had in previous stages. He's got class and capacity. He listens and gets the messages I give him, a very important quality for a rider. Congratulations."

While the role of the riders is evident, yours is rather carried out in the shadow; do you feel recognised in your job?

"I don't need to feel recognised. I only want the team to work and the riders to learn, to be happy and work well. That's how you achieve aims, you get results and you win."

Which is the most gratifying aspect of your job?

"The final result, the victory. Although seeing how a happy rider arrives at the bivouac after the stage is also very gratifying."

Five rivals for the title

"I don't think there are so many. As candidates there are Marc, Carlo, Isidre and Despres. Fretigne is already ruled out. We still have to count on Cyril, because, although he's had the problem, many things can happen and he has proven to be a great rider."

The final victory is the only possible valid result?

"Of course, that's what we're here for. Although in the end, other circumstances may determine the result."

-repsol-

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Series DAKAR