The road to Buenos Aires goes through Le Havre

A first series of technical and administrative scrutineering started today at the docks of Le Havre. In two days, close to 720 vehicles will be fully checked, that's 80% of the total of cars, bikes, quads, trucks and assistance vehicles that will take part in the 2009 edition of the Dakar.

Only most of the professional competitors as well as the non-Europeans will not be present. The others will leave their machines in Normandy to be shipped during over three weeks across the Atlantic Ocean to reach the South American continent.

Two hundred people - volunteers and employees -- are busy making sure that all the vehicle documents are in order. Another series of scrutineering, more focused on the competitors will take place in Buenos Aires on the eve of the start of the rally.

Open to the public

Those technical scruteenerings take place at the Docks Cafe in le Havre and will be open to the public tomorrow again from 10 AM to 8 PM.

Scrutineering, how it works...

First stage for the competitors present at Le Havre, the administrative checks: a passage by the accounting stand, then a detour by the boarding counter for the transport issues for the vehicles and finally a stop at the security material. The vehicles are meanwhile fully checked: harness, hoop, chassis, lights and tires are therefore examined.

The pros by plane

Unlike the amateurs, most of the professional teams will send their vehicles to Argentina later during the month of December in order for their drivers to train more. No Mitsubishi, Volkswagen or BMW therefore at the Le Havre docks. They will be sent to Buenos Aires by plane. Only the assistance vehicles of these teams will go through the Normandy scrutineering.

A real survival kit

On the Dakar, everything is set up to guarantee the fastest possible assistance to the lost competitors or those suffering accidents: GPS, satellite phones, Iritrack, distress signal beacons, red hand lights, luminous sticks and a main map of South America. As explains Monique Faucherre, a.k.a "miss beacon" (photo): "If with all that we don't find you on the Dakar tracks, you'll have asked for it!"