In 26 years of existence, rarely a day of scrutineering had attracted as many people. Looking at the thousands that made the short trip from Clermont and the area to the Grande Halle, one can only consider Auvergne as a land of rallyraid fanatics. And the show has only just started. Today, close to 200 vehicules went through technical inspections. Even more vehicules including the Mitsubishi, Nissan teams and the top KTM riders will be present on Tuesday, just a day before the big start of the race with a 1.5km prologue. One that was definitely happy to go through scrutineering had to be Swede Bertil Marcusson (Honda – n°6). His rally started on the 26th of december when he took off from his town Visby on his 450cc Honda for a 2000km ride all the way to Auvergne and his very first Dakar. “I had to take the ferry to go from the island where I live to mainland Sweden, then down Germany and France. The police even stopped me on the way, but the officer was a nice guy, especially when I told him I was going to the Paris-Dakar”.
And if Marcusson will be starting his very first rally, it also is thanks to compatriot PG Lundmark (KTM – n°170) who helped him get a rally licence from the Swedish federation. For his 5th Dakar, Lundmark will be ambitiously aiming for a place in the final top three for himself or his Norwegian team mate Pal Anders ullevalseter (KTM – n°15) although he admits that it looks “impossible, especially against the official KTM team riders”.
Meanwhile on four wheels, the main attraction came from the presentation of the two big German teams : BMW and Volkswagen for scrutineering. In front of thousands of fans, Luc Alphand (BMW – n°207) admitted that this edition could be his. “The car is now over a year old. We’re more mature and have more experience. This year we’re more than ever in the battle for victory. In my mind, Mitsubishi remains the favourite. They are far more experienced”.
On the other hand Jutta Kleinschmidt (Volkswagen – n°204) is not as ambitious as her French colleague. Although being delighted with her new car, she only started testing it a few weeks ago. "The car was ready in november. I therefore only had two weeks to test it in Morocco. It’s very fast but there still are a few things to work on. To be perfectly ready, we would have needed an extra month or two. The goal is to finish in Dakar, we’ll see if we can go for the top 1à or top 5”.
Tomorrow all eyes will be on the Japanese cars : Mitsubishi and race favourites Masuoka and Peterhansel and Nissan with newcomer Colin McRae, and all the official KTM boys.