Dakar: Face to Face, day five

Face to Face January 4, 2006 moto: An endless fall Guillaume Floirac (no. 35) Beneath the tent harboring his damaged bike, Guillaume Floirac is joking about the day's misfortune. His mechanic, Alexandre, is smiling, but the same cannot quite...

Face to Face
January 4, 2006

moto: An endless fall
Guillaume Floirac (no. 35)

Beneath the tent harboring his damaged bike, Guillaume Floirac is joking about the day's misfortune. His mechanic, Alexandre, is smiling, but the same cannot quite be said for his father, Michel, who spent yesterday afternoon going back and forth between the assistance area and the race PC to consult the Iritrack. "I'm only just starting to relax," he sighs, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Night has fallen on the bivouac at Ouarzazate.

For 24-year-old Frenchman Guillame, who is experiencing his first Dakar, the accident occurred a few hours earlier in the middle of the special. A fixture in the first forty since Er Rachidia, Guillaume went straight into a hole that was actually marked in the road book after being put off by a thick cloud of dust. After trying to take evasive action at the last moment, he ended up flying over the top of his KTM: "I landed on my head and was stunned by the impact," recounts the Dakar debutant. "I stayed sat on the ground for a while, then set off again without GPS or my road book. Luckily, I didn't suffer any injuries." Deprived of his navigational instruments, the young endurance rider, who is a big admirer of Richard Sainct, then had no choice but to follow the tracks left on the route. Unwittingly, he ended up making a 60-km detour with a small group of fellow strays that included Christophe Meillat. Consequently, Guillaume Floirac has plummeted to 135th position at the last control point of the special and to 57th in the overall ranking.

But this mini-disaster had one positive outcome: it reminded him of what really matters: "My objective remains to reach Dakar without worrying about the overall ranking. I would really like to share that moment with my family and friends, who all plan to be there to welcome me at Lake Rose." His dream was passed on to him by his elder brother, who made two unsuccessful attempts at doing the Dakar. "I wanted to have a go myself," he explains with evident enthusiasm. The road is still long and the unknowns numerous, but Guillaume is already itching to experience Mauritania. For he feels that there, the full meaning of Richard Sainct's tantalizing invitation to him will be revealed: "The only way to understand the Dakar is to do it."

moto Manuel Garcia: living in the moment

As he removes his boots before slipping into his tent, Manuel apologizes "because time is flying by." The bikers' bivouac is filled with the sounds of a gigantic and informal mechanics workshop and the cool Moroccan night does not inspire confidence. Manuel is settled right next to the white trunk in which his entire life is concentrated, just like all the bikers and debutants of modest means. On the tarmac, the number 178 still takes time to explain his philosophy: "This is my first and last Dakar," he says. "So I'm trying to make the most of every moment. Everything here is very special, from the landscapes to the organization. Too be honest, I find it all a bit overwhelming." After preparing for a year and a half, Manuel now confesses to feeling a degree of stress in the face of the scale of the event, but he is maintaining his customary methodical manner. Nevertheless, he has been surprised by the realities on the ground and has even lowered his final objective accordingly. The important thing for me is not to finish. I've already completed an African stage, which is such a big thing that I feel I've already reached my goal."

But rather than being just some dreamer, this native of Calahorra in Rioja province possesses permanent energy that has earned him considerable business success. The founder and managing director of a chain of bargain clothing stores, he is doing the Dakar in order to push himself to the limit and to enhance his knowledge of the world. When he has given his all, he will bow out of what he has found to be a highly taxing and complicated undertaking. Manuel is one of those people who accept living their dream once in their lives. "I have traveled throughout the world, but I don't really know Africa. Alright, I've done a bit of training in Morocco, but am I prepared for what I'm going to find in human terms further south?"

In a sense, Manuel is apprehensive. He is acutely aware that all is far from well in Africa and that solidarity is essential here. He supports the NGO Medecins sans Frontières, for that's also what the Dakar is all about, but he admits to not really knowing the correct thing to do to help. As determined as ever despite his fatigue, he reiterates what, for him, amounts to confirmation and discovery at the same time: "The people here are really worth it." Then, he closes his trunk and casts a final glance at the sky over the still visible mountains. Before disappearing, he adds: "Today, I have navigated, I have used the road book, I have seen all the holes and all the traps." Manuel is proud. His ranking? "I really couldn't care less," he says. Manuel has his own criteria, not to mention an abundance of Dakar spirit.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Richard Sainct , Christophe Meillat