The Dakar is Peru!
Over the last two editions, Peruvians on bikes or in cars have been tasting the adventure of the Dakar. Well prepared by their country's very varied geography as well as long bands of coastal desert, the amateur riders, like Fernando Ferrand, are holding their own.
There is an ambiance of Peru in Arica, which is not unsurprising since the border is a short distance away. Fernando Ferrand knows that means around fifty of his supporters will be coming from Lima to see the Dakar and cheer on the Peruvian representatives. It is both a little and a lot for a country in which the rally-raid tradition is not as well entrenched as in Argentina and Chile.Fernando Ferrand is racing his second Dakar after having completed last year's edition in 47th place. Along with his son who is also his co-pilot, he is one of the few Peruvians who, since 2009, have come to test themselves on the Dakar. "I don't do any training, I just do the Dakar, that's all," claims this discrete, French-speaking business manager, who is used to the sands of his country as well as its tracks: "With my father, I was always in a car and I picked up everything you need to do to drive well. So, with a well-prepared 4x4, it's almost easy".However, it is not the national events that are a genuinely good preparation for joining the immense brotherhood of the world rally-raid circuit. According to Fernando, to immerse yourself in motorsport, all you need to do is take a look back on Peruvian history: "Each year I race Los Caminos del Inca (the paths of the Inca). Over 5 stages that take place every other day, the rally follows a big loop from Lima and back, via Huancayo, Ayacucho, Cusco and Arequipa. Sometimes it's on the roads, sometimes mountain tracks and other times on sand. The surprising thing is the people's reaction. They come from all around, often on the back of horses, donkeys and other animals, and they throw flowers in front of the cars".The Peruvian drivers are all the more ready to tackle the Dakar since the desert is a significant part of their geographical make-up, as pointed out by a Chilean neighbour, Jorge Latrach: "On an event like the Dakar, Chilean or Peruvian amateurs like ourselves can only rely on our skill, because we haven't got cars that are powerful enough. Like others, I've got almost 20 years experience of the desert and, in Peru I've often driven in the Ica desert where there are some pretty big dunes as well".Fernando Ferrand is more forthcoming about this country which, in the end, is a very good stepping stone to doing the Dakar. "To grasp what it's about, you have to realise that we have three distinct zones: the coast, where the desert is, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Forest. Around 25 rivers run down from the Andes, but between them, it's a total desert along fringes of up to 100 to 150 kilometres. Lima is only 300 kilometres away from the Ica Desert, or the Pampa de Villacuri as we call it, which is a similar terrain to what we see here in Calama".Whilst his son finishes putting up the assistance tent and everyone wonders how Carlo Vellutino (No. 154), his son-in-law, has managed, Fernando draws a map of Peru in the sand to give a clear idea of the three different zones. "I love it at home in my country. What's more, the French would be astonished by our gastronomy. There are a wealth of flavours and different ways to prepare food. But it's because the abundance of this natural produce is unique. Did you know that we have 3,000 varieties of potato?" When you finish 47th in your first Dakar, there is room for more aggression on the sporting side of things, but Fernando prefers to cultivate a discrete approach: "It's true that when we go back, there is a certain amount of enthusiasm. Ah, if only the Dakar would visit, it would be even better than in Chile!"