REPSOL RIDERS IN DAKAR 2006: GIOVANNI SALA
What does the Dakar mean to you?
"The Dakar is a place to enjoy. It is a beautiful experience, in a fascinating place, where you experience the motorbike in a very special way. It's a real pleasure to visit all those countries and enjoy them in a way we couldn't if it weren't for the race. As regards the sporting aspect, it is a race where you need to navigate well to find the right way, it's not about racing. I have won six Enduro World Championships and I'm happy with what I have achieved in my sports career, so I'll be taking the Dakar with a different philosophy than, for example, Marc or Jordi, who are in the middle of their development. I'm here to help if I'm needed, to make my race, and to enjoy the Dakar and the people."
What is it that makes the Dakar such a special race?
"I think that there are many things. In this race it is not important to be fast, but to be skilled. On the other hand, the place raises a real fascination among participants, it has a special charm. Is the only chance to travel around places like that, such as the dunes that make you feel like being in a different world. Africa is fascinating, all those who get there fall in love with it, but it is also an extreme terrain."
Which is the best memory you keep of all the times you've been there?
"With no doubt the day I won my first leg. I'm not a 100% raid rider, I come from the world of enduro, so winning against much more experienced raid riders and doing it at the Dakar was a marvellous experience. The stories of humanity and friendship you experience there are also a beautiful memory."
And the worst?
"With no doubt the death of Fabrizio Meoni early this year at the 2005 Dakar. We were team-mates for many years; I had been his helper until the previous year. Looking at a friend, lying there, dead, is not a nice experience. I also keep a bad memory of my crash in 2000."
With your experience, would you say that the desert is a friend or an enemy?
"It's rather a friend. But you have to take it as such and treat it with respect and carefully, or it may betray you. I've been coming back for eight years, so no wonder I consider it as a friend."
What will be your job within the team?
"A very gratifying job: helping. Right now, the bikes are highly reliable and they cause hardly any problem, so they don't need much supporting help. I'm very lucky being able to participate in a race as the Dakar and to do it with the best team, the Repsol KTM Team, together with the best riders and the best staff. The system of a helper does not imply a pressure as regards the result, so I can do my race. If there are no problems, I can even fight for a good result."
You have only taken part in one race of the World Championship this year, how do you think that you will arrive at the Dakar?
"One raid is not enough to be at a 100%, so I've been at some enduro races, although the feeling of the bike is quite different. But I think that I got back the pace on the raid bike quickly at the Egypt Rally and I managed to be quite fast in the end. It is not the first time I use this bike, so I only had to refresh my memory. It helped me a lot and I'm quite confident for the Dakar."
This will be your second year in the Repsol KTM Team, what do you think about Marc's evolution?
"Marc has matured a lot this year. He's always been a great rider, but this year he's made a big step forward. It's been very nice to watch him improving and evolving, because I do not only appreciate him as a rider, also as a person. We both come from the world of enduro and I can say that we are very good friends."
What would you highlight as a personal quality of yours?
"My smile. I'm always smiling, even in the hardest times. The fact of going to the Dakar to have fun and not to achieve a fulfilment as a rider, makes me take everything with a different philosophy, even if the bike breaks down."