The Waiting Park next to the Magdalena beach is filling up in preparation for the first day of scrutineering of this year's Dakar.
Now that the technical and administrative scrutineering area is ready to open, Lima is really starting to live the Dakar experience in and around its key nerve centres. From the port to the Waiting Park, the rally’s arriving competitors and vehicles are giving the city a great buzz.
The Rio Imperial docked in Lima to disembark 700 competition, assistance, organisation and press vehicles more than two weeks ago. The barriers around the park where they have been kept were put up on Tuesday 31st December at 10.00 hours to welcome the (mainly European) competitors whose vehicles travelled on the ship. The first to cross the finish line last year, Cyril Despres and Stéphane Peterhansel, were also the first at the rendezvous in the port of El Callao; they went there straight from the airport.
The Peruvians obviously have had a shorter trip, but the weight of history makes itself felt. Bruno Chichizola, in his first participation in the rally, fine tunes the bike he will present to the race officials tomorrow, almost in a state of panic: “I’m running around all over the place. I still need to adjust the aerials, for example. People are telling me about the Magdalena camp but I haven’t had time to go there yet. I have accommodation in Surco and I can sense everything that’s being prepared. In fact, it’s a dual pressure: my first Dakar and to cap it all it starts in my country in the middle of this incredible enthusiasm!” Quad rider Enrique Humbert has similar feelings: “I am getting more and more edgy. A lot of last-minute details still need to be sorted, and everyone around me is talking about the Dakar all the time: my friends, my family, but also the TV and the media in general. You feel the pressure of the event coming, with people writing things down as you speak”.
We’re tweaking a few things.
On the seafront next to the Magdalena beach the Waiting Park is gradually filling up and is starting to feel like a bivouac. The atmosphere is created by the horns, the dust, and people shouting! Michel Boucou, the French truck driver, makes some mechanical adjustments: “We’re tweaking a few things”, he says with a smile on his face, squeezed up against the steering wheel of his yellow Kerax. Just a little further on, there is a nice collection of quads belonging to the Can Am Chile team. The Spanish mechanic and former competitor in the class Carlos Avendaño casts a proud glance over them: “We’re ready. We arrived by road the day before yesterday. We are the first to go through scrutineering tomorrow at 10 a.m., and we can’t mess up.”
Magdalena: two months to look good
The sixth nation to host the start of the Dakar, Peru has set the bar very high to celebrate the launch of the event with great pomp and ceremony. Then there is the scrutineering, which will begin tomorrow on a site specially created for the occasion. A real “mini town” has sprung up at the Circuito de Playas of Magdalena on the Pacific coast.
Two and a half months of work for 4 days of madness… When they present themselves for scrutineering, the competitors will probably find it hard to believe that just 3 months previously the Magdalena site was just waste ground strewn with enormous rocks, holes and humps; now it is the scene of imposing structures erected to house the administrative and technical scrutineering facilities. To bring about this small miracle no less than 1,500 workers, helped by 30 JCBs and embankment spreaders, have worked for two and a half months to make the 20-hectare site fit for purpose. Overall, more than 100 tons of rocks have been moved, 150 tons of rock fill poured in, and 300 tons of gravel spread over the site.
A titanic effort, but just a preparatory one, because it was then necessary to set up the ‘structures’, i.e. 4,000 square metres covered by 12,000 square metres of white canvas, plus the 1,500 square metres of the “Dakar Village”. In terms of personnel, this hive of activity will be run by 250 people over 4 days to ensure the correct technical operation of the site and make the competitors’ lives as easy as possible during the scrutineering, an obligatory and often stressful time. As everyone knows, while the rally begins on the start podium it is in the hustle and bustle of the scrutineering that the Dakar really starts.