Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Saturday January 6, 2007 Francisco Arredondo: Without fuss, Francisco is always ready to tell you about his life, his country and passion for the sport. Round-faced, with a jovial character, this...
Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Saturday January 6, 2007
Without fuss, Francisco is always ready to tell you about his life, his country and passion for the sport. Round-faced, with a jovial character, this young 29-year old Guatemalan now comes to suffer each January on the Dakar. He finished 58th last year and, after three participations, reached Dakar and the Pink Lake for the first time. Francisco showed he has got what it takes by making his dream come true and completing his mission. Being the only Central American representative is a big responsibility. This year he is even sporting a tourist sticker. "It's not a sponsor," he explains, "I'm just happy to be promoting Central America". Francisco is like that: generous and optimistic. On the eve of his 4th Dakar he simply states: "Everything's fine".
But it has not been simple. "On 8th December, I had to stop working because I couldn't handle everything at once any more". Francisco Arredondo runs a foodstuffs company, Bremen, and Municipal, the football club crowned champions of Guatemala in 2005; heaps of work, which leaves him little time to prepare for the Dakar. And if that was not enough, even his Christmas holidays were interrupted. "I wasn't able to celebrate the festive season since it was too close to the Dakar". It goes to show that the Dakar is even capable of taking over traditional customs. Such being the case, the African rally-raid paradoxically started for him on the day of a family meal. He was 12 years old and was listening to the adults. That day, his father had invited a fellow doctor, Carlos Romero, to their house in Guatemala City. For the young Franny, this Argentine friend told an incredible story. He had taken part in a motor rally through Africa. He may as well have said the moon! Sixteen years later, Francisco is still enthralled by this tale.
Dominique Brié: "Any further and you reach the moon
What could have persuaded this chemist and father from Valenciennes in France to go and heave a 200-kg motorbike up and down African dunes? Not much. However, to the ears of a motorbike enthusiast, powerful arguments exist. Love for the Dakar and the force of friendship count among them... Two years ago, Dominique Brié had never touched an off-road bike in his life. He only used his motorbike license for a few jaunts along roads. For this experienced chemist, the Dakar was still but a young man's dream or rather an elite race out of reach of the man in the street. But then he met Regis Blanckaert, one of the founders of the Ch'ti Team, an old regular on the Dakar. As with many amateurs, this meeting helped to convince him that he could go all the way. "Regis allowed me to take the plunge. Before meeting him, I thought that the riders on the Dakar had to be a brainless to go through with it all", remembers Dominique.
Regis Blanckaert, a motorbike dealer in the Nord area of France, thus encouraged the chemist to try out the adventure. After three months of endurance training and a successful participation in the Shamrock, Dominique Brié enrolled for the Dakar in 2006. Four weeks before the start, a sprained ankle robbed him of his race. This year, after having fine-tuned his preparation by taking navigation lessons with an airplane pilot friend and having met Luc Alphand onboard a plane to Morocco, the biker from Valenciennes cannot wait for the start of his dream to come true. "The Dakar is the best! Any further than that, the ultimate adventure would be to reach the moon... But I don't think that's possible". Space is not his final frontier for the moment, but in any case, in between Valenciennes and Dakar, there are enough miles and variables to spice up the journey.
When technical scrutineering comes around, a rookie's heart often beats faster than a bike's wing-mirror wobbles on the Moroccan stones. His eyes shine brighter than the chrome on an exhaust pipe. It is a surprising cocktail of emotions with an uncertain mix, but in general the combination of stress, excitement, happiness and impatience has a powerful effect on the newcomers a dozen or so hours before the start. Antoine Lecomte is currently under the charms of this effect. He has succeeded in his first challenge, which was to convince his family to let him take part in the rally: "He was never meant to do the Dakar -- it was written in our marriage settlement!", exclaims his wife, her eyes turned towards the gleaming 660 KTM. For Antoine Lecomte has also accomplished the feat of persuading all his family to come with him to Lisbon. His four children buzz around the bike like bees around a hive.
Mrs. Lecomte recalls the reasons which caused her to change her mind -- or how the open-mindedness of an enthusiast's spouse overcame the worries of a wife: "He was getting older and I knew that if I didn't let him do the Dakar, he would have been frustrated about it for the rest of his life". Her face lights up, her eyes sparkle... For a second, you could almost believe that the loud speakers were blasting out the song by the Supremes: "I'm sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter". Several minutes before technical scrutineering, the two eldest sons, Baptiste and Vianney fuss over the bike's mechanics. Several yards away, their two sisters are wide-eyed in amazement and soak up the atmosphere. With a hand on her father's shoulder, Aude, 17 years old, grins as she murmurs to her father, "Calm down, calm down". Of course, Lecomte cannot suppress his excitement. But never mind, because he radiates happiness: "I'm thrilled for him", admits Aude, turning away from the bike for a second, "He's been speaking about it for so long that we know it's something he really holds dear to his heart... It's a good thing that Mum finally gave in!"
Nobody is unaware of what this first participation involves, however. Getting a taste of the Dakar also means running the risk of becoming addicted. Especially when other members of the family are already fidgeting with impatience: Baptiste and Vianney, the two sons, dream of experiencing the adventure themselves. Aude, the eldest daughter, already sees herself as a co-pilot in a car driven by her hero -- her Dad. Mrs. Lecomte will have to get used to not having her own way.
Joseph Rosso (FRA): "Laurent will drive as well... for the connection section"
It is a subtle feeling, but his desert-loving heart tells him that his biological clock is ticking. As the years went by, Joseph Rosso wanted to discover the Dakar, to experience the king of all rallies at least once before quitting. "At my age, I had to get my skates on", he says. But if you go looking for passion, it arrives at full pelt. "If I finish the rally, then I'll want to carry on going". Such is the nature of the man: irrepressibly active. If he underlines his age, 62, it only for better proof that advancing years do not dull enthusiasm. Joseph Rosso is an adventurer honed on Africa. He has set up companies in the United Arab Emirates, where he lives, but also in Italy. In particular he has lived in the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Cameroon. "I'm a bushman" he says, to show his affinity for Africa. Going into the desert is like stepping outside the front door for him: "The sand is at my fingertips". When residing in Dubai, this is effectively the case.
Furthermore, Joseph and his son Laurent are not really that anxious about taking on their first Dakar rally. Accustomed to races in which sand has a major role (they have both already won the Dubai rally in the T2 category), Rosso senior and junior are taking part in the premier rally-raid to call it a day and, "have an adventure". Two problems have riled somewhat Rosso the elder. "We've hired a Mercedes from rally raid Concept for the Dakar. It's a rather cosy car which is nothing like the Nissan Path Finder that we usually use..." Another issue is the distribution of tasks. What do you do when both father and son are out and out drivers? "Since we are both terrible navigators, we have decided that Laurent will drive as well. But only on the connection sections". In the Rosso family, the father is evidently not ready to call time on his career.