Merry Christmas, Mr. Baldwin
A Dakar rally raid is something you prepare... way ahead of the start, but not necessarily from inside Team Robby Gordon, who had to call on a replacement driver at the very last minute for this 2010 edition. US driver BJ Baldwin, who should never have been racing in the Dakar - at least this year - was called and invited to join the team at the very last minute to replace a sick Ronn Bailey behind the wheels of one of Team Gordon's Hummers. At the finish of the Cordoba special stage, the 2008 winner of the Baja 500 still could not believe it: "I was asked to join the Dakar on Christmas Day, so I must say I am still not completely at ease in this monster machine. I have not driven such a big car in years." Rather used to being in the Protruck or Trophy Truck circuit for Baja, Baldwin did do pretty well for this first stage that was not really made for two-wheel drive cars; he finished 19th at 13'53''. As he stepped out of his large Hummer, the driver's prime concern was to find a tree in the shade to discreetly relieve himself. As for his co-pilot Kellon Walch, who felt queasy, he was trying to recover from this crazy first day.
Jose Manuel Pellicer, the surprise guest
10 days ago, his life revolved around the bricks and cement you find on building sites in Tarragona and Castellon in Spain. Today, his life is the Dakar, its dust and its miles and miles of trails in Argentina. Jose Manuel Pellicer did not expect to be riding this year's raid. He had even drawn a final line on his biking season last August - unable to find the funds to ride. But then, Juan Fernandez, the boss of the Spanish racing and assistance department at Yamaha X-Raids, called him. "One of the sponsors of Victor Rivera did not pay the expected cash advance but his bike has arrived by boat. This is an opportunity we cannot miss..." All that remained was to convince Jose Manuel Pellicer who had foreseen to take his two kids Alfredo (4 years old) and Jose Manuel (one year old) to Port Aventura on December 27th. Fortunately, his passion for the Dakar was stronger. "I decided to accept because another contender withdrew. So I ended up with his number - number 50 - instead of wearing Rivera's number 79. That way, I get less dust." And as if one gift was not enough, Jose Manuel finished 24th of stage one. "I have no training whatsoever but I know how to ride a bike", says the man who is racing his fourth Dakar. This might be enough to give him the will to try and get closer to the 12th place he finished the 2003 edition at.
Subaru Forester, Argentina taking a bet
Mario Barattero belongs to a famous Argentine family that has been writing - one generation after the other - the history of motorsport in Argentina. Head of the Subaru Elayon team, that has registered cars nr.345 driven by Argentinian star Gabriel Pozzo and nr.346 driven by Japan's Yoshio Ikemachi on this Dakar, Mario is also - with his brother Fabian - the designer of a new car thought and built for rally raid and off road racing. "The idea was born a year ago. As Subaru suppliers, we took the engine but built everything around it from scratch, from the body to the suspensions, in order to deliver an original car, the only gazoline turbo registered. The aim is to manufacture this car for all rally drivers." Based on a standard engine, the Subaru Forester made by Barattero sports 320 bhp and weighs 1,750 kilos. It is a race car completely made in Argentina and manufactured by the Barattero workshops. On day one, reality did not match the team's hopes as Gabriel Pozzo went off trail and reached the end of the stage with a seriously damaged rear axle and a 2h36' delay over the day's winner. But in the Barattero Cordoba workshop, the adventure is already well underway.