Dakar: Portraits of the Day 2007-01-07

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Sunday January 7, 2007 Brian Schmuckle: "The last into Dakar? With pleasure!" Lost in the crowd at scrutineering, a cigar hanging from his lip, seeking in vain where he has to go whilst pushing ...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Sunday January 7, 2007

Brian Schmuckle: "The last into Dakar? With pleasure!"

Lost in the crowd at scrutineering, a cigar hanging from his lip, seeking in vain where he has to go whilst pushing along his 510-cm3 Husqvarna is how Brian Schmuckle acquainted himself with the Dakar... at least for the moment. Furthermore, the American rider was one of the last to submit himself to technical scrutineering. "I'll also be thrilled to be the last into Dakar. That will mean I've managed to make it to the end of the rally", admitted the Californian business manager.

Brian, a father of three, has been a motocross fanatic for more than thirty years. This year he has therefore set himself a new challenge: to take part in the king of African rallies, an idea which is much too dangerous for his wife's liking... But never mind, Brian Schmuckle will do his utmost to follow his friend Michael Kay, who convinced him to accompany him on this adventure.

His plans have been especially difficult to get off the ground. "Husqvarna promised to give us two bikes free of charge, but three weeks before the start, they changed their minds and asked us to pay for one. We have had no time at all to look for funding. My paint company is my main sponsor".

Now that the time has come to tackle the first difficulties of the rally, Brian admits to being quite stressed by the sheer scale of the event. "My deepest worry concerns the bike's workings". The 49-year old rider does not, however, seem too bothered by the risks involved. "I'm really not worried at all about any accidents. I've already broken 21 bones in my body. Physically, I'm perfectly prepared".

For the Californian, this rally simply involves, "getting from A to B, without racing anyone..." Several minutes before experiencing the first miles of the race, the rider was still wondering just how the GPS on his bike worked!

Sunny Irvine: The Dakar made in Mexico

Sunny has been talking about the Dakar for almost five years. Over there in Cabo San Lucas, in the southern reaches of Lower California, where he has set up his tourism company, he has been dreaming of this extraordinary race for a long time. So it was no surprise to hear him say, on meeting him in Portugal, "The important thing is just being here". The number 200, for whom this is the first participation, is primarily an enthusiast, despite a personal roll of honour which is somewhat eclectic. At just 29 years old, Sunny has already covered quite a lot of miles on his bike.

When he picked up his Business Administration diploma from the University of San Diego, in the United States, he celebrated by trekking down to Ushuaia with fellow graduates. This motorbike raid took six months, covering 30,000 kilometres and providing an 80,000 dollar donation to the Honduran Red Cross, as part of an aid campaign to help the victims of hurricane Mitch. He also took a round the world trip by boat with other students. So it is hardly surprising to find him today set up as a business manager taking care of the needs of thousands of passengers ferried by cruise liners to his doors. He offers the opportunity to experience the desert, raids, excursions, sailing, and water-sports to a clientele mainly made up of demanding North American customers. He could only be fascinated by the Dakar. He readily admits that if he gets through this, he could do anything.

He is in perfect physical condition, since this is central to his lifestyle. However, his pre-Dakar preparation was somewhat limited: "We don't have any big dunes in Mexico. We have never ridden using a road book either. But we were able to do a week's training in the Valley of Death with Chris Blais".

An accomplished sportsman, Sunny also speaks several languages and is more than happy to be able to get by in French. "Oh là là!" he exclaimed to a Gallic journalist. "All this technical stuff is so complicated!" he uttered, connecting wires to his bike, busy and smiling in his blue race overalls.

Philippe Tonin: "Everything went wrong"

Discovering sometimes can be painful. For his first participation on the Dakar, Philippe Tonin expected a soft start, as it is sometimes possible on the European stages of the Dakar. But not this time as Philippe quickly understood. He really endured the first difficulties of the special and was dogged by bad luck: "Everything went wrong", says Philippe who spent 6 hours on the first special. "First I was hit by another rider, a Brazilian. My back hurts a little, but I will be fine. Now the thing is I think the tank was damaged when I fell because I ran out of petrol". Problems started only after a few kilometres for this French rider: "A friend stopped the first time and gave me one litre, but it was not enough to start again. Then I met a couple of spectators: they went home and came back with 5 litres. Unfortunately, I had another breakdown three kilometres from the finish line. In total, I stopped twice for more than an hour".

Philippe, who has already experienced all types of misfortunes in this Dakar, is starting to discover the feelings competitors usually have on the rally: "You tend to believe it is much more difficult in Mauritania", says the unfortunate rookie jokingly. I have to admit I started to feel low at once. "Nobody stopped to help me because everyone tried to take as little petrol as possible to lighten the bikes. I really wondered what I was going to go without petrol. I was furious; I did not want to withdraw". Philippe Tonin has already had his share of troubles and is ready for the adventure!

Alain Delaunay: "The Dakar is really something else!"

"It really made me laugh when a Portuguese spectator told me there were only 9,000 kilometres left before Dakar!" Alain Delaunay parks his bike in the secure enclosure in Portimao and recounts the first day of his first Dakar. One hell of a baptism of fire which did not really worry competitor number 137. So much the better, since the rally started without a warning for the man who says he came along "naturally", to use his words, to try out the hardest race in the world. "I feel a bit like a robot", he admits. It is his way of shrugging things off. It all started with a petrol inlet problem which required a change of fuel hose, followed by a few falls, "five or six", according to his own estimations. But that is not all. He also had problems with the sentinel, dealing with the extra stress of having to move over as soon as the warning signal rang out, which he explains with quite an image: "I feel like I've got a combined harvester instead of a bike". It is, in fact, a Honda 400 XR that he chose for its light weight. Alain Delaunay also encountered difficulties with administrative scrutineering. What's more, he is an ICO novice. "It's not all that simple!" he exclaims. He even struggled with the road-book: "I only managed to input about two-thirds".

What a devil of a first special stage, which he finished 2 hrs. 56 min. behind winner Ruben Faria! And yet, Alain Delaunay if far from being a wilting violet lost on the rally discovering a foreign world. He has 20 years of endurance racing behind him and is an expert in track maintenance. He is a Manager with the French rail company SNCF, and that level obviously demands a good sense of organisation. He meticulously prepared his Dakar, wearing himself out in the search for sponsors and going flat out in training. "I know you have to manage everything in minute detail to reach the goal. But in spite of my experience, I'm realising that it's just something completely different". Before the start, he called it "the ultimate race", to justify his efforts. So, Delaunay is now living the dream and it is not simple... Right from the word go.

-credit: dakar.com

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Chris Blais , Ruben Faria , Philippe Tonin