The fantastic four
The bike-trunk zone is the regular haunt of a special type of biker, tough guys who promote a minimalist concept of participating in the Dakar. These riders enrol for the rally without an assistance team and carry out their own repairs in the evening. For someone with a good grasp of mechanics, regular upkeep is easy, but the situation gets complicated in the case of late finishes, whilst repeated falls increase the workload. Out of the 11 bikers who enrolled for this challenge, only four of them are left after the loop around Copiapo. Hugo Payen, who has managed to avoid any major setbacks to date, is the quickest and lies in 54th position, 12 hours and 21 minutes behind Marc Coma. "For the moment, everything's fine, I'm managing to reach the bivouac early each evening and haven't had to sleep out on the tracks. The only problem is that I've switched from to a 450cc from a 690cc. During the first three days, it was difficult to get used to and I couldn't push it at a quick pace. It would be great to win the challenge, because I've got the impression that being the one who manages to hold his own the best, in such difficult conditions, really counts for something".
A textbook Ford Raptor
Crew No. 374 is proud of its Ford. Only available in the USA, the Raptor is made for off-road driving, but not necessarily for the Dakar. The students of FabSchool, Riverside, in California, made it there task to prepare it. "They put in roll-bars, incorporated into the chassis, and worked on the suspension". Darren Skilton, for his 8th Dakar, is very happy with this project which is withstanding the trials and tribulations of the race because the two professors from this school, specialised in racing cars, are involved in the assistance team. "Since the Dakar is not widely known in the USA, it's a good thing that young people have worked on this car and that they can follow its progress". And to help them do this, there are no problems with communication. Sue Mead, Skilton's partner on the race, is a journalist. This lively sixty year old is taking part in her second Dakar and passes on news of the car's good performance, 27th in the general standings in Copiapo. Whether for Truck Trend, Pickuptruck.com or Motor Trend Radio, the list of Medias with which she works is somewhat on the long side. A member of the journalistic Hall of Fame, she discovered the Dakar in Africa in 2000, and her problem behind the wheel is still the same: "The dunes!" she exclaims. Darren and Sue have been sharing driving duties with an objective that is now becoming tangible: to win the Open Production category in which they lead Eliseo Salazar, their main rival.
Coronel's first roll
It is very rare to see Tim Coronel in a bad mood on the Dakar. The Dutchman is more accustomed to cries of joy when he reaches the finishing line of the special. Tim is happy to be on the Dakar and especially to be driving his little single-place buggy, regardless of all the pitfalls he has to endure. At the finishing line in Copiapo, Coronel, who has finished the three Dakars in which he has taken part, gives an enthusiastic account of the first time he rolled his vehicle. "It was great. It's the first time it's happened to me. I rolled 5 times. I was at the top of a dune, I could feel the buggy going over and it just kept turning and turning. But take a look at it, there's hardly a scratch". Exhilarated by the experience, the Dutchman immediately called his twin brother Tom, a WTCC driver, to tell him about rolling in Copiapo, an incident which has not disrupted his excellent Dakar: Coronel is currently 21st in the general standings.