The heat is on After discovering the brand new X5 BMWs, Nissan Pick Ups and Schlesser buggies, day two of scrutineering saw the main bike favourites enter the 25th edition of the Dakar. Led by two time winner Fabrizio Meoni (KTM n.1), the KTM ...
The heat is on
After discovering the brand new X5 BMWs, Nissan Pick Ups and Schlesser buggies, day two of scrutineering saw the main bike favourites enter the 25th edition of the Dakar. Led by two time winner Fabrizio Meoni (KTM n.1), the KTM armada proudly went through the technical zone one favourite after another. And while the two wheeled vehicles were being checked, Mitsubishi on four proudly presented the brand new EVO of their leaders Masuoka and Peterhansel. The icing on the cake of this last day before the real start came with the entry of the big truck favourites.
Eager to take off for the first stage a few metres away from the technical zone, Fabrizio Meoni enters the Dakar with no real pressure, according to him, on his shoulders and still that big smile on his face.
"If I don't win a third time it's not a problem. I will however try my best to conquer a third crown. The most important thing is to make it to Sharm El Sheik."
The biggest threat for the Toscan could come from another member of his very own Gauloise Team with South Africa's Alfie Cox (KTM n.2) frustrated at missing out on top spot after finishing in the leading positions for the past five years. The man from Durban insists he will take the race day by day.
"It's a long race and it's impossible to predict what's going to happen. I'll try to stay safe on the day and try not to take too many risks. The biggest problem that we have at the moment is that all the KTM riders are in the same situation and the guys in the race are not the kind that you can fool every day."
On one side of the car technical zone Hiroshi Masuoka (Mitsubishi n.200), easy winner of the 2002 event in Dakar. On the other, his team-mate Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi n.206), six time winner on two wheels. Between both men: respect but not an ounce of rivalry.
"I don't think of the possible danger coming from my team-mate Stephane Peterhansel. I only focus on my mind, on my race. I don't think about the other competitors", admitted the Japanese pilot.
So far, so good but the deserts of North Africa could well become a battle field between both men.
Just after lunch, it was time for Germany's Jutta Kleinschmitt (n.203) to appear behind the wheel of her new baby: a brand new Volkswagen Desert Nardo. The first ever woman to win the race (back in 2001) admits she doesn't quite know what to expect from the buggy.
"The car was finished very recently and I drove it for the first time yesterday evening. We are not competing for victory and this edition will be a good experience to find out what the car can do."
And for the show to be perfectly complete for the huge Marseille crowd, there's nothing like a few trucks with favourites such as Tchaguine (n.407) and the Kamaz trucks, Johannes De Rooy (n.409) on his DAF as well as the Tatra machine of Karel Loprais (Tatra n.408). For the coolest competitor of the day, the prize goes to former Belgian National keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff (n.433) who will be a co-pilot in a MAN Truck.
"I'll have two pilots and I'll be a kind of tourist. When I was young I used to go to the beach in Ostende and I would play in the sand with small trucks so it's now incredible to be at the start of a Dakar rally."
On Wednesay the real business starts with the prologue staged in the Parc Chanot of Marseille at 17h00. It'll start with the bikes (2 by 2 every 1min30 starting with the highest numbers and finishing with Meoni), followed by the cars ten minutes later (2 by 2 every 1min30 starting with the lowest numbers and Masuoka) and finishes with the Trucks (2 by 2 every 2 minutes).