Dakar: Series scrutineering day one notes

SINGING THE SONG OF THE DAKAR TO THE TUNE OF LISBON A few centuries ago, the Tagus estuary was already an invitation to travel and discover. In front of the Hyeronimites Monastery, a huge monument pays tribute to the navigators who were the...

SINGING THE SONG OF THE DAKAR TO THE TUNE OF LISBON

A few centuries ago, the Tagus estuary was already an invitation to travel and discover. In front of the Hyeronimites Monastery, a huge monument pays tribute to the navigators who were the pride and joy of the country, like Vasco de Gama or Ferdinand Magellan. It's in this environment conducive to adventure that the Dakar has established its first HQ for the last three years, as a prelude to a long journey across the desert. The Dakar will once again take its competitors on a journey to the capital city of Senegal. For its 30th edition, 248 bikes and quads, 204 cars and 98 trucks have been summoned to Lisbon where the start of the race will take place with stage one on Saturday January 5th. Before facing the clock, the pilots and their machines have to abide by the usual formalities during the three days of technical scrutineering and administrative checks. Safety instrument monitoring, handing in of the paperwork, weighing of the vehicles, sticking of the race numbers, booth after booth, the competitors collect stamps in their scrutineering booklet, THE essential document that will allow them to park their rides in the parc ferme before they can enjoy Lisbon till Saturday.

For practical reasons, the Spaniards and the Portuguese were honored during the first day. Most of the 97 Spanish and Portuguese pilots and teams arrived this morning at the Cultural Center in Belem. The best Portuguese representatives in the bike category, Helder Rodrigues and Ruben Faria, who are used to shining in 'their' stages on home turf and have done so over the last two years, were amongst the hot shots expected in the morning. After sorting out some last minute fine-tuning, it's in the early afternoon that Rodrigues showed up whilst Faria had left his bike in the garage after making sure he could come back the next day for scrutineering.

The champions expected to hold center stage in the race being expected later, today's parade allowed us to focus on a lady biker who made the headlines last year. To defend her title as best woman, Ludivine Puy has switched to a 690cc KTM. Amongst the new winners, Eric Bernard, team manager of Cyril Despres in 2007, goes back to driving a 4x4 and will be behind the wheels of a BMW prototype in the 2008 edition. Amongst the rookies of the caravan, Philippe Bernat-Salles, vice world champion in rugby in 1999, has presented to the stewards the Bowler he will be driving. Welcome to the Dakar.

Tomorrow, the Portuguese spectators should be even more numerous to welcome the great names of the raid (one million people had showed up in 2007!), starting with the title holders in the car and bike categories. In the car category, nine times winner of the Dakar Stephane Peterhansel will lead the Mitsubishi armada and its three former winners in cars if you add Alphand and Masuoka. Awaiting the arrival of Carlos Sousa on Thursday, the local star of the day will be Tiago Monteiro. The former F1 pilot will discover the atmosphere of the Dakar behind the wheels of a one-man buggy. On the bike side, Cyril Despres will troop his new colors and meet his main rivals including Marc Coma and David Casteu. And in trucks, seeking revenge, Chagin and De Rooy will unveil machines they hope will help them triumph in Dakar in a bit more than two weeks.

-credit: dakar.com

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Series DAKAR