"I can't wait for the real start" were Sainct's very first words. The three time rally winner (1999, 2000 and 2003) will be one of the favourites again but the fight should be very harsh with KTM official team mates Cyril Despres (n°2), Joan Roma (n°4) and of course Fabrizio Meoni (n°3) on his very own 950cc twin-cylinder machine. The Italian, winner of the 2001 and 2002 editions, celebrated his birthday (46 years old) like every year : with a day of scrutineering. "It's even tougher this year because I will be far away from my little girl that is only 10 months old". Meoni is looking forward to his 12th Dakar but sounds less confident. "The others are improving and I am getting older. I should ask the organisers to give me an 1h30 advantage because I'm a veteran". Typical Fabrizio !
Red also like the Mitsubishi squad and the brand new EVO 2. Hiroshi Masuoka (n°201), winner of the previous two races was, as usual, all smiles when he leaped out of his car, while team mate Stephane Peterhansel (n°203) appeared to have completely forgotten last year's edition when he lost the race on the penultimate stage. "It's forgotten, digested and I'm even more motivated this year. The goal is for Mitsubishi to win the Dakar and -why not- for me to win the race for the first time in a car". Both Masuoka and Peterhansel will be counting on the help of a new partner in Andrea Mayer (n°211) who will be driving their first fast assistance car. "My job is to help, to stop if they need spare parts. But I don't think that they will need me because the car is great".
A few minutes after the Mitsubishi team, both Schlesser-Ford buggies appeared in the main hall. Also a multiple winner (1999 and 2000), Jean-Louis Schlesser (n°200) could be one of the surprises this year after failing to finish the last two rallies.
In the trucks, all the main favourites went through scrutineering with last year's winner Wladimir Tchaguine (n°414) and the Kamaz trucks, six time winner Karel Loprais (n°416) and Andre De Azevedo (n°412) on Tatra and the two DAF trucks of De Rooy father and son (n°411 and n° 417).