Cody and Koerich, the leading rookies in 2011
The first is a regular on the Bajas and boasts an impressive roll of honour on the North American part of the continent (three times winner of the Baja 1000). The second is a regular on the Rallye Dos Sertoes in Brazil (and has won it twice). Both of them are discovering the Dakar for the first time this year and are the leading debutants in their respective categories.
Here, we interview biker Quinn Cody and Brazilian driver Marlon Koerich, 9th and 14th respectively in the bike and car categories.
Are you surprised by what you have experienced on your first Dakar?
Q.C.: The Dakar is a lot more difficult than I expected. It's the whole deal: the bivouac, the road-book, getting up early and of course the difficult terrain. You have to be focused on everything and that's probably even more difficult than the riding.
M.K.: Yes and no. First of all, there's the size of the event. When I picked my car up from the port in Buenos Aires, the Dakar was everywhere. I was amazed by the dimension of the event. Believing it is one thing, seeing it is another. Of course, there's the difficulty of the specials. It's completely different from what I'm used to in Brazil, especially the Rallye Dos Sertoes where there are more tracks. It's harder, because there is more off-track racing and more dust. I knew it was tough, but not this tough.
How have you adapted to riding/driving on the Dakar?
Q.C.: I'm starting to get a good feeling and starting to grasp the navigational part. It's fun to learn to read the tracks and the road-book. In the beginning, I was a bit intimidated, I wanted to go like a bat out of hell. Afterwards, I started to find a good pace. I don't need to stop as often to read the road-book and I can remember some of the notes.
What does this status of best rookie mean to you?
Q.C.: Obviously, I'm really pleased to be the best rookie. I'm really quite satisfied with my position. For a first attempt, it's awesome. I'm delighted about it, but I hadn't realised just how tough learning the race would be.
M.K.: My goal at the beginning was first and foremost to finish. I knew that if I managed to finish, it would probably be in a good position. I could aim for the Top 50. Now I'm in 14th place, but we've had a fair few problems with the car. I'm happy to be the best debutant, but I think we can do even better. But still, it's a dream come true.
What is stopping you from competing for the leading places?
Q.C: I'll have to work on my navigation and try other rallies. We need to improve the bike as well, do more tests and be more organised with a good team around me. You know, the first time I saw my bike was at scrutineering in Buenos Aires. To win the Dakar, just being a good rider isn't enough.
Will you return to the Dakar?
Q.C.: Of course. I want to get more involved, do other rallies and come back here next year. I want to come back and battle it out with the best.
M.K.: In Chilecito, if you had asked me the question, I would have said no, because I was tired. I was just surviving. 3 days ago, I would have said yes, absolutely. Seriously, I want to come back. At the end of a rally in general, I need 5 days to recover and afterwards I start thinking about the next edition. So, 5 days after the Dakar, I will probably only be thinking about the next one. Mind you, there are some moments that are so difficult that you never want to experience them again. I'm lucky enough to belong to a big team, with plenty of experience and a good organisation. What's more, it's wonderful to rub shoulders with so many great drivers on the Dakar. You can meet them, chat with them -- it's fantastic. We get to meet our idols. I hope that in the future I'll be able to battle it out even more with my idols.