Dakar: Face to Face, day four

Face to Face January 3, 2006 Lune": the idol of the Dakar scooter boys Number 198: Alioune Sarr (SEN) On his first trip abroad and big debut in the Dakar, Alioune Sarr is living a waking dream. For this bike-mad 25-year-old who had never...

Face to Face
January 3, 2006

Lune": the idol of the Dakar scooter boys
Number 198: Alioune Sarr (SEN)

On his first trip abroad and big debut in the Dakar, Alioune Sarr is living a waking dream. For this bike-mad 25-year-old who had never before set foot outside Senegal, even the technical checks for the greatest raid rally in the world were an adventure in their own right. "As soon as I arrived at the verifications, I headed for the bike park to see the latest innovations," he enthuses. Encouraged and advised by his "big brother" Mame Less Diallo, he has spent a year putting his project together, found a secondhand Honda 400 XR and secured his funding at the last minute: "Just a few hours before the plane left, I collected the money from a big sponsor. Getting the budget together has been an absolute nightmare," smiles the young man who is well-known in Dakar for his acrobatic scooter shows and who also makes his living selling secondhand wheels.

Installed in Lisbon since the start of the week at the home of a friend originally from Dakar, "Lune the Lynx" could not be prouder or happier about rubbing shoulders with drivers whose arrival he has often cheered at Lake Rose. "I've watched the finish of the rally with my brothers many times. At home, I've got the autographs of Jutta Kleinschmidt and Stephane Peterhansel, one of Hubert Auriol's gloves, and I even spoke to Nani Roma once." But the reality of actually taking part of the race is still enough to give even this rebellious daredevil a touch of the jitters. "I feel under pressure and I'm not that relaxed," he admits. As I won't have any assistance in the race, my main fear is that my bike will give up on me during the route (...) The Dakar is long and I keep wondering if I'll have the mental strength to overcome the driving and navigational obstacles."

It is with this in mind that he has been riding in the Lompoul desert in the north of Senegal, getting used to the sand dunes. His sole objective is to take his bike -- prepared in France by Challenge 75- all the way to Dakar within the time limits. If he does, his pals have promised to line up to welcome him in style... on their scooters!

auto: Madalena Antas - Jean-Michel Polato

As first appearances go, it's very high-profile. For her inaugural Euromilhoes-Lisboa-Dakar rally, Madalena Antas is aiming solely to reach the finish, but as a mob of admirers thronged around her during the verifications, one could have been forgiven for thinking that this attractive 29-year-old Portuguese, who has twice been national women's all-terrain champion, was targeting victory. Admittedly, it was easy for her most fervent fans to accompany her at the start, as her home town of Cascais is just a few kilometers from Belem Cultural Centre, but that's not the only reason for the enthusiasm surrounding her.

"Portuguese people love mechanical sports and are therefore extremely demanding with regard to their representatives. I'm continually being approached by the national media, who all speak to me about possible targets or even stage victories on home soil during the first two stages. They simply don't realize that for a first Dakar, just reaching the finish is a victory in its own right," this native of Rio de Janeiro explains.

But at the wheel of a new-generation Nissan Navarra pick-up and with a former stable co-driver alongside her in Michel Polato, this art student has all the elements in place to do well, a fact which only serves to increase the pressure. "Originally, we were going to be in a Patrol GR, which is much less competitive, but a month before the start, Promotech finally decided to entrust me with a real race car. It's fantastic, but also more stressful as it's an unforgiving vehicle. What's more, I haven't even driven it yet, so I can't wait to test it out."

As she seeks to aims to restore family honour (her mother, Teresa Cupertino De Miranda, took part in the Paris-Le Cap Dakar, without however completing the course), rapid familiarisation with her vehicle amounts to a vital prerequisite. "My mother has given me tremendous support throughout my preparation and, as she'll be accompanying me in assistance, I'd dearly love to give her a place on the podium by proxy."


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hubert Auriol , Nani Roma , Mame Less Diallo , Jean-Michel Polato , Madalena Antas