Hidalgo in a place he knows well... There are faces that one might not expect to see on a Dakar bivouac. However, the face of Michel Hidalgo is not completely alien to the old wolves of the rally. The former selector of the French national...
Hidalgo in a place he knows well...
There are faces that one might not expect to see on a Dakar bivouac. However, the face of Michel Hidalgo is not completely alien to the old wolves of the rally. The former selector of the French national soccer team actually raced the Dakar almost 20 years ago: "It was back in 1991 with Thierry Delli-Zotti and it will remain a fantastic memory. It was a whole new world to me. We finished 21st but I did not do much to achieve this. I was just feeding Thierry, explains the coach who led the French national team to getting the European Champion title in 1984. But my wife did not want me to do it again. Back then, there were no cell phones and she was worried." The man never stopped following the Dakar ever since. And it's in Argentina that he has a new appointment with the Dakar, Argentina, the country where he participated in his first World Cup at the top of the French national soccer team. "The passion for the rally-raid stayed with me." Today, he is the 'Dakar Godfather' of Isabelle Patissier, "quite a lady" as Michel puts it.
Patronelli holds the place
A Dakar in Latin America was both a celebration for his fans and a challenge for the drivers. Of course, there has never been this many Argentinian and Chileans enrolled in the rally-raid with different kinds of ambitions that do not always correspond to the results at the finish. In the bike category, Francisco Lopez, legitimately introduced as a favorite to get the title, was quickly ousted from the race and must - in the end - satisfy himself with just one stage victory followed by a walkabout amongst his fans. The Prohens brothers - Felipe and Jaime - actually end up being the best representatives of the countries visited by the rally and finished the Dakar respectively in 16th and 40th position. Four Argentinian riders managed to close the circle and get to Buenos Aires, with Aurelio Junco Andres in front of them (60th in the standings). In the car category, Orlando Terranova remained - for a long time - a solid candidate in the Top 5 but his restlessness on the trail ended his race at stage 10. Amongst the disappointed local contenders, Eliseo Salazar finishes the rally, yes, but at the 88th and penultimate position in the standings! Finally, the best performance of the local participants in the Dakar goes to Argentina's Marcos Patronelli. For his first participation in the Dakar, this young entrepreneur managed to end up in 2nd place of the quad general standings 2h34' of almost untouchable Josef Machacek: "When I think of all that has happened, I just cannot believe it. During the race, I took it one stage at a time. I picked up confidence at mid-raid."
A first for Bernat-Salles!
He switched from rugby to the trails of the Dakar with the same sporting enthusiasm. A first Dakar behind the wheels of a Bowler with Gilles Lafeuillade by his side and a first success! Philippe Bernat-Salles finished - under 40o. - his very first Dakar close to Rosario. Yesterday, we he got out of car 412 at the finish of the last special stage, his friend from Bearn rushed to meet him with flags and... a nice cold beer. The former international flanker greets everyone and serenely lights up a cigarette for a job well-done. A few draws and a few pictures later, he comments on his experience: "I am so glad to have finished. I am happy for Gilles and for all those passionate people of our 100% South-Western French team. they have been working on the project for the last two years! So it was my duty to drive the car to the finish. Sports people always fight for something but here, I am humanly overwhelmed. It's a number of things: all the volunteers working all night and when you walk by they always have a good word, a nice gesture for you. If I can, I'll be back next year." His co-pilot, Gilles Lafeuillade, who is used to the Dakar is also thrilled: "We ended the big dune stage 25th at scratch! We had a good drive with a few very 'Dakar' moments like when we had to change the gear box during the night two days before Valparaiso." Philippe Bernat-Salles finished 71st in the general standings.
A first for "Betty"
Around her neck, Elizabeth Kraft wears three miniature sand waffle boards. This is a pretty strange piece of jewelry for a vet like her, that was handed in to her at the arrival of the Rally des Gazelles, where she discovered a discipline called rally-raid. It was the beginning of a journey that took her to registering three years later to take part in the Dakar. After 14 days of a rough race, she became the first woman to finish the Dakar riding a quad. Moreover, out of the 13 quads that reached the finish of the Dakar, "Betty" ends up 8th whereas the two other girls in the category dropped out of the race: "My aim was to become the first woman to finish a Dakar on a quad but also to beat a few guys along the way. And I succeeded on both accounts. But honestly, I suffered so much that I do understand why no other woman had managed that before! There was a day where I must have thought about withdrawing 25 times at least."