Jean-Paul Cottret has acted as Stephane Peterhansel's navigator during each of his six Dakar Rally victories on four wheels, but says he has no problems being in the shadow of his fellow countryman.
While Peterhansel is widely regarded as one of the best drivers of Dakar’s history, Cottret, who has been his co-driver since his switch from bikes to cars in 1999, is not nearly as well-known a name.
But, despite being an indispensable ally to the Peugeot driver, the 52-year-old Frenchman says he has no issue about not being in the spotlight - as long as Peterhansel is happy with his navigation.
"I don’t have a problem with it," Cottret told Motorsport.com. "I’m here to do my job the best way possible.
"My relationship with Stephane is very good, he thinks I do a great job and that’s what is important to me. We are a team – in the end, we both stand on the podium, not just Stephane.”
Peterhansel and Cottret ended up taking victory by a convincing margin over nearest rival Nasser Al-Attiyah, but Cottret said the pair were taking nothing for granted on the final stages.
"There was no pressure coming from another competitor, but in Dakar you always have to be cautious, there is always a chance to have a mechanical problem," he said.
”We could not allow to be complacent. Me and Stephane have lost out on a podium finish on the last day before.”
A complicated route
The 2016 Dakar Rally has been anything but easy for Cottret even though the first week required minimal navigation.
”This year, big part of the route was similar to WRC stages,” said the 52-year-old, who deemed the second week as the more challenging one. ”The three stages at Salta, Belen and La Rioja [Stage 8, 9 and 10] were true tests, there was no time to relax until we completed them.”
”Navigation is never easy, there is always a pressure on you because you can get lost and miss a checkpoint, which could cost you crucial time.”
Interview by Luis Ramirez