Cristina de Kirchner welcomes the Dakar back to Argentina
The Dakar returned to Argentina yesterday, and the President of the Argentine Republic took the time out to welcome it back. Under very hot late afternoon sunshine, the bivouac for the 10th stage experienced a moment that was both official and informal at the same time. Etienne Lavigne, the Rally Director, Luis Beder Herrera, Governer of the Rioja Province, Enrique Meyer, the Minister for Tourism, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah, Volkswagen drivers, and lastly, Javier Pizzolito, the Argentinean hero of the cross-border Copiapo-Chilecito stage, talked with Cristina de Kirchner via a video-conference. The President, live from the studio of the programme 'Argentina con vos siempre' congratulated Nasser Al-Attiyah on his lead in the general standings of the car category and informed him that she would be in Qatar next Tuesday. After congratulating the organisers, she had a spontaneous discussion with Pizzolito then Alejandro Patronelli, who had joined the guests for the video-conference. "You, our Argentinean sportsmen, are exceptional. You are achieving fantastic results in a magnificent race," underlined the President. Pizzolito's 1 year wait
Javier Pizzolito has been waiting for this Dakar for some time, since last year, to be precise, when his bike caught fire in the secure enclosure in Buenos Aires. Since then, he has been biding his time and quietly preparing. Yesterday, in Chilecito, he finally displayed his potential. 7th placed on the stage and 21st in the general standings: this result was sort of a way to set the record straight and the steely gaze beneath the peak of his cap speaks volumes of his determination. Javier Pizzolito takes part in rally-raids a bit like others play at Russian roulette: "The aim of the game is to win. To win, you need to be faster, so I am on the attack all the time. If you try to be calculating, you'll never win a thing. In Tucuman, I lost". During the second stage, Javier chute had a nasty fall, damaged his bike and found himself in 95th place in the general standings. A star of the cross-country circuit in Argentina, Javier won, or almost at least, in Chilecito, as the Dakar returned to his home country: "7th in one of the hardest stages is a lot to be happy about. I've shown that hard work pays off". And sometimes a make-or-break attitude too. Bowling up on time
Three days from the finish in Buenos Aires, the Bowler drivers are starting to become a rare sight. The pack of around ten vehicles enrolled suffered quite a sever cull, because there are only three left in the race. Amongst them, Yves Fromont is bringing up the rear in a very respectable 34th place. However, the hours he has lost to Jean-Philippe Theuriot and Patrick Martin are mainly due to a night time session of driving at Copiapo. "We ran out of petrol 7 km from the finishing line after using 350 litres over less than 500 km!" remembers co-pilot Paul Vidal. Unused to giving in without a fight, Yves Fromont made it his mission to find some petrol, turning back and heading to the CP, four kilometres behind them: "At night, with my torch, I followed the tracks left by the vehicles, but the sand was so soft that I wouldn't have been able to return with a jerry-can in my hand. I knocked that idea on the head, but providence smiled on me: an Argentinean at the wheel of a pick-up that looked like it was used in the film Mad Max, offered to help me out. With the ten litres he gave us, we finished the special, at 8 o'clock in the morning, in time for the next start at 10 AM". Naturally, the level of tiredness in the cockpit is starting to increase. Following this double special without sleep, Yves and Paul had to wake up in the early hours for a 500-km link stage leading them across the Andes. Jordi's 20th Dakar
In the landscape of the truck race, Jordi Juvanteny has long had the reputation of an adventurer. With 19 Dakars to his name, he can boast to have seen it all, yet this does not take anything away from his enthusiasm: "This year, the race is a lot more competitive. There are an increasing number of stronger teams, such as the official Tatra or Man crews, not even mentioning the regular major players, like Kamaz or De Rooy". In this competitive field, Catalan Jordi Juvanteny, a sturdy and gentleman trucker, knows that his chances are limited. "Our MAN truck (prepared by Epsilon) only has 550 horsepower against 1,000 for the trucks fighting for the title, and it weighs 13 tonnes whereas the Kamaz ones weigh 8". With a 9th placed finish last year, just like his 9th place in 2001, Jordi Juvanteny accepts his role of distant outsider: "We run on diesel. The top speeds aren't for us, but with long stages and the sequences of tricky terrain, our steady pace allows us to perform respectably". For crew No. 517, in 17th place after the stage that finished in Chilecito, the aim is to win the 6x6 category, to crown Jordi's 20th participation. Look who came sailing into the bivouac...
The sight of top sportsmen and women from other disciplines visiting the Dakar is commonplace. In the last few years, famous names such as Michel Hidalgo or Argentinean rugby player Agustin Pichot have come to see with the rally's competitors. The bivouac in Copiapo was graced with the presence of two prestigious navigators Lionel Lemonchois, winner of the Route du Rhum in 2007 and the latest winner of the Americas Cup, Russel Coutts. "It's great and really amazing to see all these people buzzing around these vehicles in the middle of the desert," admits Lemonchois. Seafarers often have good experiences on the Dakar, like Laurent Bourgnon, Steve Ravussin and especially Philippe Monnet, twice a winner of the event in 1992 (with Auriol) and 1996 (with Schlesser). But what about comparisons between the two disciplines? "Perhaps we're a bit similar to the bikers, who are all by themselves, have to navigate and sometimes get lost". The French skipper does not see himself in the shoes of a competitor. "Definitely not, I'm too old for that sort of thing. What's more, I get back trouble and I couldn't handle all the bumps". Lionel Lemonchois will have to content himself with his good old boat Prince de Bretagne and tackling, in September, the Transat Jacques Vabre race.