Dakar: Portraits of the Day 2007-01-19

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Friday January 19, 2007 Marc Dullum: "I find 'life balance' with the Dakar". Marc Dullum didn't take up motorcycling until he was 36 years old, as a way of clearing his head after a busy day in the...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Friday January 19, 2007

Marc Dullum: "I find 'life balance' with the Dakar".

Marc Dullum didn't take up motorcycling until he was 36 years old, as a way of clearing his head after a busy day in the office. Then he read about a small rally in Tunisia and decided to enter -- that was back in 1998. Admits Marc, "I didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing, but I was bitten by the bug, and decided to set myself the long term goal of entering the Dakar." In 2003, after five years of training and fund raising, he finally made it to the start line and finished at his first attempt. In 2004 he came back with the intention of improving his finishing position but went out with mechanical problems. "I had to leave the bike out on the piste and didn't see it again for 6 months. When Etienne Lavigne rang me to say that they had recovered it and were shipping it back to Europe I was overjoyed, you go through so much together, you get very attracted to your machine."

In 2005 Marc was back again and finished without too many problems, before returning in 2006 as a TV reporter for Danish television. Now in 2007 he is here again, riding his beloved KTM and doing TV reports when he gets to the bivouac. "All year I work very hard as an industrial consultant and need my annual Dakar challenge to keep me sane. The Dakar has also helped me in business. I have made a lot of contacts through it and it has taught me a lot about motivation and focus." So presumably Marc will be back again in 2008. "One way or another. But I am 45 years old now and it is starting to hurt when I fall off. I have been looking at those Gache single seater buggies and wouldn't mind having a go in one of them."

Mike Hughes: "The Anglo-Australian boomerang".

Originally all Mike Hughes wanted to do was come and do the Dakar as cheaply and as painlessly as possible, get it out of my system and forget about it. That was back in 2001. "The first time I rented a Honda XR400 from the Parisian bike shop Challenge 75 and they did my assistance. Back then the rally lasted 21 days but everything went extremely smoothly, I had virtually zero trouble, either with the bike or my riding and finished with no problems."

That of course should have been the end of the story -- except Mike hadn't quite satisfied his Dakar hunger. "Although I achieved what I had set out to achieve I started to wonder what it would be like on a bigger bike." Even moving from the UK to Australia failed to put enough distance between him and the mythical race and in 2005 he came back on a 660 KTM, only to go out just after the rest day with mechanical problems. Now there was unfinished business and Mike came back a third time in 2006, but yet again failed to finish when he broke his leg.

"I rode 50 kilometres into the bivouac with the fracture hoping it wasn't as serious as it felt but an x-ray confirmed my worst fears." This year, so far at least, everything is going according to plan and Mike is starting to believe he will be able to put his Dakar ghost to bed. "Before the rally started I thought if I could get the Nema -- Nema stage behind me I would be OK and here I am. I have to say though that it has been really hard this year. 2001 might have been longer, but compared with this year it was a stroll in the park. 2006 was hard too and I definitely think it has got tougher since David Castera (the Sporting Director) has been doing the road book. The bizarre thing is that relatively speaking there haven't been so many retirements so far as in 2001. I have been thinking about it and reckon that is because the profile of the competitors has changed. In 2001 there were a lot of adventure riders, whereas now there are a lot more racers."

Of course the obvious question to ask Mike is, assuming he does finish this year, will he ever come back? "Well that isn't the idea. The idea is to finish on a big bike and then call it quits. On the other hand I have been looking at some of the rally kitted KTM 525s and reckon I could go quicker on one of them..."

Rowland Kirishima: "Constant agony!"

Rowland Kirishima had intended to wait for his 40th birthday to take part in the Dakar. Caught by the passion and worried he might get injured, the Japanese from a Scottish father decided to come to the rally a bit earlier than that: "I just couldn't wait any longer." So it's on a Yamaha 450cc that this racetrack biker embarked upon the journey to Lac Rose. A painful first time... At the Ayoun El Atrous bivouac, he admits: "I must be the biker who fell the most of the whole Dakar."

Before the mythical rally, Rowland prepared himself participating e.g. in the Pharaohs Rally of Egypt where he finished at a very honorable 28th place: "But the Pharaohs is a walk in the park compared to the Dakar. I didn't know it would be that hard; it's constant agony. There is no time to catch your breath."

In the stage between Atar and Tichit, Kirishima lived in hell and kept pushing his limits further. "I think I fell about 20 times in the first 50 km. I then drove at night with the broom truck right in my tail. The organizers wanted me to withdraw; they told me to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath... I kept going. And in the last 10 km I fell about 20 times again in the middle of the night. On top of that, I had no more headlight due to a battery problem. I was just driving with my front sidelamp." The day after this apocalyptic stage, this professional photographer, suffering from a leg injury, did not dare go to the medical tent fearing they might force him to withdraw...

Lessons in courage are many on the Dakar particularly in the bikers' family. Rowland Kirishima adds a bit of chance to his courage: the chance of the Atar stage being shortened due to low visibility or even the one of not having had to drive to Timbuktu. With a great smile, he adds: "at any rate, I'm getting my money worth!"

Antonio Ramos: "I'm helping everybody out"

"I'm helping everybody out". Do not remind Antonio Ramos of the fact that he is now famous in the retinue for being the water carrier of Marc Coma, title holder and leader in the bike race. Do not remind him because he embodies the Dakar philosophy and as a proud hidalgo he does not want to be depicted as an opportunist. "I do the Dakar the old fashioned way," he says to clarify the misunderstanding. The Murcia magician is participating for the 11th time and has been in the Dakar since 1996. In 2003, he got a very nice 22nd position in the final rankings and proudly displays it on his jacked but he also caught the full spirit of the race. "I always helped everybody. All the time... this year in Morocco it was a Portuguese. Then in the Tichit stage, a Mexican with a foot injury, Sunny Irvine! He had a broken driving belt."

Antonio Ramos, 49 years old, is an uncompromising person, the kind of guy who doesn't cheat. Long and lean, he speaks in a strong voice and does the Dakar because he's a believer. The rest of the year, he only thinks about the race and goes through all the trouble of giving advice or suggesting technical solutions. Jordi Ingles, the young Catalan from Santa Coloma, bears witness to it: "He sent me a part in December without asking anything in return. He just said not to worry about the price." The whole attitude gives him a special status, a small fame that spreads fast in the alleys of the bivouac and on the trails of the special stages.

It's not surprising that Jordi Arcarons, the team manager of KTM Repsol, thought about this biker to compensate for the withdrawals of Jordi Viladoms (7th) and Giovanni Sala (9th). He's a reliable biker and a good mechanics driving on a KTM, so Antonio quickly appeared as the savior of the Repsol team and of Marc Coma, alone in the race since Nema. Modest and shy, he doesn't dwell too much on this tacit agreement with Arcarons. For him, it's normal. What would not be normal would be to reduce the deal to the 6,000 euros agreed upon for each of his interventions just because these are the terms of the agreement. Antonio has other battles to lead, the battle of being recognized for instance. He is a bit angry at the media in his home region. Too much used to his yearly participation in the raid, they kind of neglected him this year. "People don't see me for who I am", he says full of pride. But he certainly has the recognition of his peers.

-credit: dakar.com

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Giovanni Sala , Marc Coma , Jordi Arcarons , Jordi Viladoms