Series focus, day four

Argentina's passion for the quad The first Argentinean to tackle the Dakar on a quad, young rider Marcos Patronelli, created a shock wave in the host country with his 2nd place in 2009. This example led 11 other countrymen to try out the...

Argentina's passion for the quad

The first Argentinean to tackle the Dakar on a quad, young rider Marcos Patronelli, created a shock wave in the host country with his 2nd place in 2009. This example led 11 other countrymen to try out the adventure of the Dakar, a unique story in the history of the rally which is the envy of European quad riders.

Second in 2009 behind Czech rider Joseph Machacek, king of the category, the young Argentinean joined the ranks of his country's national heros. This year, 11 other Argentine quads have enrolled for battle, making up more than half the amount of quads participating. Add on Chilean Hernandez, Uruguayan Henderson and Brazilian Collet, and it soon becomes evident that the category has a Latino flavor, something which has never been seen before. This influx of South American riders owes a lot to the performance of Marcos Patronelli, the only Argentinean on a quad last year. Such is the opinion of Pablo Copetti, a newcomer to the event: "Patronelli has encouraged many of us. The national events in 2009 and this 32nd Dakar are proof of it. But it's also due to the fact that many people use quads in our country". Julio Estanguet agrees: "Several of us didn't have enough time to set things up for the Dakar in 2009. In fact, if the Dakar takes place again here in 2011, there will be around twenty quads from Argentina".

This Argentine craze for quads on the Dakar also has more prosaic origins according to Edgardo Driss (no. 272): "It's simple, it's for economic reasons", says the Mendoza ATV Racing rider (a team which has 3 quads enrolled). "It's three times less expensive than taking part in a 4X4. And as for bikes, that's another thing altogether... As a result, for some, to be on the Dakar, you have to be on a quad". The fact remains that in France, like in Spain, sales of quads have been higher than sales of motorbikes for the last few years. However, such popularity is not as visible on the Dakar. For Hubert Deltrieu, a quad dealer in Carcassonne, the Argentine case is simple: "There is plenty of passion for quads in Argentina. The population is used to this means of transport and consequently, they follow sports news about quads". He believes, much to his discontent, that the explanation of such feeble numbers of his countrymen on the Dakar lies with the lack of media exposure in France: "If quads were often in the press, there would be more competitors. But quads don't get much attention. If this discipline isn't visible, then the sponsors and competitors won't be attracted".

Another view comes from the race leader since yesterday, Spaniard Juan Manuel Gonzalez, "Pedrega". For him, healthy sales of quads have been due to them being perceived as somewhat of a novelty and that the public see them as easier to drive. Yet, this year the situation is worrying: "We've dropped from 45,000 quads sold in 2008 to 3,000 in 2009. It is due to laws to protect the mountains which restrict the use of quads, but also due to the economic crisis. This year, on the Dakar I'm the only Spanish rider. In Argentina, however, there are lots of participants, because lots of young riders are emerging". Argentina, its young riders and its enthusiastic crowds really do have a head start...

-source: aso

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Series Dakar