A mid-race update from AndrÃ© Dessoude This year, Atar, in the heart of Mauritania, is welcoming the Dakar caravan for the traditional rest day. Half-way through the event, it is a good opportunity to see what lessons have already been learnt...
A mid-race update from André Dessoude
This year, Atar, in the heart of Mauritania, is welcoming the Dakar caravan for the traditional rest day.
Half-way through the event, it is a good opportunity to see what lessons have already been learnt from the 2007 edition, and to draw up the first reports.
It is also an opportunity for everyone to recharge their batteries -- well worn down by this stage -- and to take care of the vehicles. There are still over 4000 k m to go before reaching Dakar... André Dessoude looks back over the first seven days of the event, in relation to the current provisional overall classification.
"At the end of this first part of the race, we have only lost one car. The vehicle driven by Madalena Antas had an oil-leak and the engine broke, forcing her to retire.
But the other six are still going...
In the order of the overall classification, the best-placed of the six is Miguel Barbosa. Miguel has had a fine race. Unfortunately, he had two transmission failures which cost him over an hour. Without that, he w ould have been in the top ten. Miguel respects the race orders to the letter and his navigator is doing an excellent job. This 15th place is very satisfactory considering the problems he has encountered.
Yvan Muller and René Metge are making progress, but are still in search of their bearings. This is all totally new for Yvan, and there is a lot to learn : the driving style, working with a navigator, the very specific terrains encountered. It is not catastrophic, but I would have preferred to see them a bit higher in the classification.
We then come to Paul Belmondo and Jean Pierre Strugo. I am very satisfied with their performance. They are in ideal positions at this stage of the race. If I had to give them marks, I'd give them 10 out of 10... The fight in the T2 category is far from over, and looks like being extremely close.
The start of the race w ent perfectly for Christian Lavieille, but a broken transmission has cost him dearly. It is a great shame. Christian is solid, and his morale is high, which is important for the rest of the event. He could still manage some good stage results, but will remain a long way down in the classification. He has adapted remarkably w ell to the Pickup.
With François, they form an ideal crew. Two true professionals who never give up.
As for the 'girls', Carole and Mélanie, well done !! They are always smiling, in a good mood, and are enthusiastic about everything. Every single day they are jumping for joy when they get out of the car. Their morale is excellent, and they follow any advice given to the letter. It is very nice to work in such conditions.
On the Dakar, as well as the drivers, there are also all the technical staff. The whole team works in a good atmosphere and pulls together. The day before yesterday, one of our T5 trucks slid very deeply into a saline lake, and it was necessary to work all night long to pull it out with the help of a local truck. We lost one of our T4 rapid-assistance trucks in Morocco, when it rolled in the dunes. We only have one T4 truck left in the race, with six cars to help. It's a nuisance, but not impossible.
This Dakar is more difficult than I had imagined. We have not had many large dunes, but chains of smaller dunes which are very tricky. As for what awaits us, tomorrow's marathon leg at Tichit, as well as the following legs, should also be very tough."
Tomorrow, the competitors will head for Tichit, but no assistance vehicles will be there to greet them at the finish point. Over this marathon leg, they will have to cope by themselves, and solve any problems with their own means. With six cars and a T4 truck, Team Dessoude will rely on its solidarity, both during the stage and in the bivouac.