Roma's new easy-going life
Hired at the last minute by Team Overdrive, Joan "Nani" Roma immediately changed his state of mind on joining a team that was less ambitious than those he has previously been used to. The vehicle intended for him did not allow the same goals, but on the stage finishing in Copiapo, the Catalan managed to finish just behind the 4 Volkswagen Race Touaregs: "Of course, it's our best day and it's nice to be back at this level. But that's basically what we aim to do every day: to cruise at a pace which respects the car, to avoid any problems. Or plan was disrupted after 20 kilometres the first day and we have had a lot of mechanical problems, including blowing the engine on the stage that finished in Arica, which cost us a lot of time. Otherwise, we could be at a decent level". Rather than getting frustrated, "Nani" sees this unexpected situation as a benefit for his career: "Since I stopped riding motorbikes, I've always driven factory cars, which performed well and were backed up by teams with plenty of resources. But what I've been learning with Overdrive will help me a lot for the future. It's all very positive because today (yesterday) we've shown a calm attitude is important in the approach to racing. In the first few days, we all fret over seconds in the standings; we're all like that, but it's stupid! So, this morning, with Gilles (Picard), we decided to have a good go at this stage without forcing it, and it worked".
Fina Roman: "in the dunes, I do the talking"
It's her ninth Dakar and she still takes pleasure in it. Fina Roman tackles the hardest race in the world without the slightest sign of weariness and with the same delight as for her first experience in 2002, when driving an assistance vehicle for Jean-Louis Schlesser. The Catalan is now part and parcel of the rally in the hardest category: the truck race. "I moved to the truck category for my second year, with the Epsilon team and I've been the co-pilot of Jordi Juvanteny since 2006". With her long hair and forthright gaze, Fina Roman is does not really fit in the typical Dakar mould, it has to be said, but she is not inconsiderably proud of her career to date: "It's not easy being a woman in this environment, but that depends on your personality. As for me, I integrated little by little, without asking for any favours or trying to rock the boat. Today, I'm happy with the place I have. I work with a team of 36 men and everything is fine". A native of Catalonia, where she still lives, a region that produces motorsports enthusiasts with remarkable regularity, Fina Roman forms a team with Jordi Juvanteny and Jose Luis Criado, and has a very clear mission: "Navigation. It's my personal satisfaction. In the trucks, I'm in charge of finding the way points and beacons, and in the dunes, I do the talking". The cliche of a fiery will beneath a gentle exterior is alive and well with Fina Roman, who has made the Dakar into one of the elements of her lifestyle: "Everyone who does the Dakar is a little bit eccentric. For me, it's a question of daily desire and in the end one of mental health: when I return home, I fell brand new". Fina Roman, who manages a raids and adventure company when not racing, has not yet experienced all the Dakar's facets nor exhausted all its thrills and emotions: "With my husband, we'd like to do a Dakar together. I'd prefer to do it in a truck whereas he'd like to do it in a car, so for the moment we're at the negotiating table". Josep Maria Servia already knows who will be doing the talking in the dunes...
Grub's up for Kamaz
It is a scene that occurs several times per week on the bivouac. At the foot of the blue trucks, mechanics peel potatoes whilst others set up a sauce pot and prepare the fire to cook up dinner for Chagin, Kabirov and Nikolaev. "We like to cook and eat amongst ourselves. The ones who know how to cook take on the responsibilities, but we don't have a designated cook". Evgueni, press and communications manager for the Tatar team smiles at this distinctive feature, because, on the Dakar, nobody else worries about home made preparations. "We buy our ingredients on site to have fresh produce. We often make soup, with meat and vegetables mixed in, because we can't go too long without soup. There are two things we don't buy here: the beer, Krombacher, which we buy in Germany on our way to Le Havre, and pelmeni, which is a bit like raviolis, and long to prepare, but which are nicer than Italian ravioli". Sometimes the mechanics also drop in to the restaurant at the bivouac: it is commonly known that working late makes you hungry. As for the pleasures of genuine Russian cooking, that will have to wait until Buenos Aires. "There is a little restaurant which, apparently, is very nice. It's called Ermak' and makes Ukrainian borscht. The problem is that it's a very small place, so I don't know if we'll all be able to go before we leave". Well, there will always be the sauce pot for one last soup!
And what about David Casteu?
A candidate for a place on the podium and stage victories at the start of the rally, David Casteu has suffered enormously on this Dakar. The latest setback for the man from Nice on his Sherco was a faulty gearbox during the 7th stage, which forced him to ride a considerable part of the special in 4th gear. "In any case, now I just make sure I enjoy the landscape," admits Casteu on finishing the special in Copiapo. The rider, currently 43rd in the general standings, took advantage of the arrival at the bivouac of a Sherco engineer to try and solve his gearbox problems. "We're going to use the gearboxes I had last year. I'll be able to ride without feeling as stressed". Is he envisaging a grand finish to the rally? Not exactly... "I just don't have the desire or the pace to set a fast pace up front any more".