Dakar: Face to Face, day 14

Face to Face The Dakar Magazine January 13, 2005 Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind... Ronan Chabot - Toys Motors Sports - 333 Ronan Chabot : "All ...

Face to Face
The Dakar Magazine
January 13, 2005

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

Ronan Chabot - Toys Motors Sports - 333

Ronan Chabot : "All hopes have vanished"

They're not really in the spotlights of the Dakar. However the T1 category cars, in other words normal cars sold on the market are key to the rally. Also known as 'Production' cars, they prove to be essential for the major brands and are also a last step between privateers and pros. Indeed, a driver like Luc Alphand started in the T1 class before entering an official team. These cars that request a smaller budget than the prototype vehicles, allows amateurs to live their dreams. Just for the pleasure but also to sometimes get results. The Ronan Chabot -- Gilles Pillot duo is the perfect example of that.

Slowly but surely, this crew has become known in the World of rally-raids. Two years ago, they started with working on an ambitious project with Toyota: to make the Diesel Land-Cruiser one of the best cars of the Production class. Ever since then the project has seriously grown! For their first Telefonica-Dakar, in 2003, they finished 33rd overall. A performance in accordance with their plans with the ambition to do better the next year by winning the diesel T1 standings. Unfortunately, they broke their two turbos with just 50kms remaining in the penultimate stage. An event that just motivated them even more for the following year. In 2004, the two men started regularly winning stages ahead of the normal fuel vehicles, like during the Morocco rally.

Later, in Dubai, they were 9th overall (first of the Diesel Productions) 1h50 behind Isabelle Patissier, first of the event at that moment, when they broke their gearbox and dropped down to 14th spot with just 100kms to go. The crew eventually finished second of the rally-raid World cup in the Diesel Production class, without even competing in all the races. The goal for the 27th edition of the Dakar: "to fight for top spot and win the 2005 World Cup", explains Ronan Chabot. "We have great expectations for this edition". Until Zouerat, all was happening rather well. "All is going as planned. We're 3rd of the T1 class and 38th overall", insisted Gillles (a former co-driver for Jean-Luc Crétier and Luc Alphand). But the following stage was fatal. Zouerat to Tichit: 660 km of dunes and camel grass in strong sand winds. Like in Dubai, their gearbox broke. Forced to get to Atar without going through Tichit, the vehicle was logically forced to quit the T1 race and just remain in the T2 class. "The special between Zouerat and Tichit ruined our plans of T1 victory. Our goal is now to manage good stages, to get the car in Dakar but also to help the other T1 Toyotas. But we're very disappointed". Next goal now: the T1 title in 2005 of course...

Guerlain Chicherit - Volant Jeune - 350

"Get to the end of the challenge"

His life? Extreme sports. His Name? Guerlain Chicherit, 26 years of age. After becoming a double world champion in freeride skiing, but also a French champion in street-hockey, it was time for France's youngest black belt at judo to enter the legend of the Dakar. Also a top model and a violinist, the young man just awaited the perfect opportunity to compete on the rally.

Competing in the Super 1600 WRC Championship, with Mathieu Baumel as a co-driver, the two men won the "Volant Dakar" a competition to select the best crew and send them to the race in a Bowler Wildcat 200 vehicle on the 31st of January in Barcelona. Their first Dakar has proven to be quite adventurous but full of passion. And the only goal was to see the banks of the 'Lac Rose'. A goal, he can still hope managing.

After a promising beginning, with a 30th spot overall, hell started between Zouerat and Tichit where they were forced to lower their ambitions. "After many hours in the sand wind, where we couldn't see more than 50 m ahead, the car was in chaotic shape. Everything was fixed with tape, and the front screen was only holding thanks to shovels!!! 50km before the finish line, the rear lift broke. So, we just could only cross the dunes with a two-wheel drive system, but it was impossible. So, we tried to repair by ourselves in the sand during all the night. A real nightmare! Then, around noon the next day, after 10 hours of waiting, our assistance came. In such a situation, you just have to stay cool. Just as we did. I even met a beetle, that became a friend and that I nicknamed "Arthur"! It's easy to become crazy when you stay alone in the desert..."

"Sincerely, I couldn't have imagined it to be so hard. I knew we would have problems, but until you've lived them you can't know what it is. When you're in the rally, you understand what the event is all about and how difficult it is." During rest day, he was supposed to enjoy a few hours of skiing on giant dunes, but the poor visibility made that impossible. So he slept a lot and managed a very good result on the next stage, with a 16th place of the stage after overtaking maybe 40 cars during the dune portions.

But yesterday, during the long stage from Kiffa to Bamako, a stupid accident with another competitor decreased their chances of seeing Dakar. "In a village, where everybody was looking for the road, we were stopped when a Latvian crew came very fast from the other way. He hit us and in the crash broke our breaking oil container and the frame of the car. I had to drive the 400km with the handle break and I'm not sure at all that the car will be able to continue until Kayes. Real bad luck, especially because they no longer have assistance since their mechanic had appendicitis three days ago.

Now the only important thing for this nice and talented crew is to hang on until Dakar. But even if it isn't the case, the two guys have already proved that they deserve to be in the race. After that, and while maybe awaiting the next edition of the Dakar Rally, Guerlain Chicherit is already thinking of another challenge: to drive the Le Mans 24 hours.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Isabelle Patissier , Guerlain Chicherit , Ronan Chabot , Gilles Pillot