Dakar: Face to Face, day 13

Face to Face The Dakar Magazine January 12, 2005 Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind... Pascual jean Vigneron - KTM - Toni - Togo - 056 "A question of...

Face to Face
The Dakar Magazine
January 12, 2005

Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind...

Pascual jean Vigneron - KTM - Toni - Togo - 056

"A question of balance"

Pascual Vigneron is from Ivory Coast and is the African enduro champion. He is currently competing on his second Dakar. During scrutineering, in Barcelona, the spotlights were naturally directed towards this little fellow of 1m58 for 84 kg. Happy as a child to start the rally, Pascual answered with joy all the request from the journalists. A couple of weeks later, on the Kiffa bivouac, he was well aware of what the toughest rally-raid's in the World was all about.

"I suffer every day. I feel a great relief as soon as I see the light of the finish line". Used to african races, he knew that the level of the race would be much more difficult than everything he had done during the year. True idol of motorcycling in his country, he has found in himself strength he thought he never had until now. He especially remembers the terrible stage between Zouerat and Tichit, in the Mauritanian hell. "Indeed, that special allowed me to understand the reality of the rally. I really suffered despite the fact that if I hadn't run out of gas, I would have finished in the top 20. 12 km from the finish line, I ran out of gasoline. It was around 5:00 PM. No cars, or bikes stopped to help me. I was so disgusted, it was pitch dark, I couldn't see anything and I have to admit that I was really close from launching my distress signal". But after waiting 2h30, a miracle came! "A Mauritanian on a little bike came out of nowhere. He asked me where I was from. When I answered I was from Ivory Coast, he called me "his brother". I tried to give him money but he said that it was free. He put down his bike and gave me 2 litres of gas... I eventually crossed the finish line at 8:30 P.M thanks to him. I can't thank him enough for what he did for me." But Pascual is a tough man. As he explains: "I came on the Dakar to compete in a race much harder than the ones I do during the year in Africa and to compare myself to the World's best bikers. Now that I'm here, I want to give everything and enjoy myself."

The only biker left, with Alain Duclos, of the KTM -- Toni -- Togo team, his efforts haven't been vain. 28th after the Atar -- Kiffa stage, the Ivory Coast rider is among the best privateers on the bivouac.However, his size remains a handicap and he's well aware of that but doesn't complain. "When the sand is soft, you don't have a lot of speed so it's difficult to stay well balanced. Due to my size, it's even harder. I had quite a few big falls but that's the way it's been since I started. I don't want to cry about my situation. I'm well adapted". Especially with five days to go before the finish in Dakar, Pascual could become the first Ivory Coast citizen to make it to the Lac Rose... despite his size!

Michael Extance - Rally Raid Uk - Honda Racing - 053

"The Top 20 won't be for this year!"

"Nothing is difficult enough on the Dakar". For his 4th participation in a row, Michael Extance has what he was looking for! The 41-year-old Brit, who just loves what's tough, has lived, until now, a Dakar as difficult as expected. "The nature of the Dakar is to be the worlds toughest race and all the competitors know it, the pro riders even more. The problem isn't to fall because you can't avoid it in a 2-week race, neither the speed that you fall at, because you can hurt yourself a lot at 30 km/h. The biggest concern is the way you fall and the surface on which you crash. The luck factor is very important in those situations and you can't control that! It still remains a very sad rally, because, professional or not, we all do it for the pleasure and it's always terrible to learn things like that (Meoni's death).

Actually, it's probably tougher for the families than for the bikers themselves, who live their passion and know there are risks." Despite everything, the Derbyshire rider regrets having to compete on a course he considers too fast and not technical enough and forces the riders to take many risks in order to follow the best. Yet, Michael Extance isn't really a newcomer. He indeed started as a dirt-track biker at the beginning of the eighties. One of the best international Enduro riders after making it to the World championships on numerous occasions, the Dakar eventually came to mind. "I was hooked after my first participation in 2002, even though I quit before the end. But I learnt that this rally was above all the world's best dirt bike school." And a new lesson was for this edition: navigation. "Even with the XTE rule, it takes time to trust yourself, and forget about whatever doubts you might have. It's easy to get lost in the corridor... And quite difficult to use all the navigation tools at the same time. I'm quite happy by the way, because, this year, I got a lot better on that field."

Another bad point according to him is that the inexperienced riders force the organisers to be nicer if they don't want to lose too many competitors along the way. "You have to be realistic, ASO cannot leave more than half of the competitors in the desert, like during the Zouerat -- Tichit stage. But to have to wait for them makes the performances of the better riders not as important, especially for the sponsors. I spent the night in the desert waiting for gas and I can tell you that morally, it hurts. At 4 in the morning, I called my wife in tears, because I was so disappointed to have lost everything on such a stupid problem. Eventually, I managed to finish asking for gas and I'm proud of it.

But this terrible stage put an end to his dream of finishing in the top 20, dropping from the 39th to the 72nd place. From now on, his only goal is to end up in Dakar as the first of the Brits. A goal that is more than realistic. With 4 stages to go, he is the first Brit in 48th spot overall.


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Series Dakar
Drivers Alain Duclos