Dakar: Face to Face, day one

Face to Face The Dakar Magazine December 31, 2004 Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind... Ronn Bailey - Vanguard - 380 We searched all the dustbins...

Face to Face
The Dakar Magazine
December 31, 2004

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

Ronn Bailey - Vanguard - 380

We searched all the dustbins For a simple licence that had disappeared, Ronn Bailey and his million-dollar investment almost made the trip back to California without even starting the rally!

For the past nine months now, Ronn Bailey, the American security data processing tycoon has given everything he has to become the first US competitor to win the Dakar. Already in Barcelona for a few days now, after a stop in Paris, the American millionaire behind the steering wheel of his specially prepared two-wheel drive buggy thought he would make it nice and gently through the technical and administrative scrutineering. But things were slightly more complicated than expected. "I had taken my American race licence with me and when I had to show it during the check, I just couldn't find it anymore. We looked everywhere. We even searched the Palau Sant Jordi dustbins thinking that someone might have thrown it away. But nothing...

After having lost an hour in their search, the team finally decided to call the USA licence office but between Christmas and New Year's Eve, nobody answered. A few phone calls later, the good person was eventually found while on holiday and sent a fax confirming that Bailey did indeed have a licence. Unfortunately, the officials are clear: without the licence number, it isn't possible to compete! "Eventually, the next morning, they made a French licence for me. Luckily, everyone proved to be very helpful and nice. I would have been devastated if I hadn't been able to start because of a document problem.

Now on the mechanical side, things weren't perfect either: "for the last weeks we've tried to do our best in order to respect the regulations we were given but sometimes, it's just so different compared to what we have at home. We made mistakes. We have to empty everything and start rebuilding again. For example, we don't have the good GPS cables. The same goes for the Sentinel system. It'll take us a good two hours of work on the car, but honestly it isn't that bad. We're so happy to be here." It eventually took the US team five hours before clearing scrutineering.

At 55 years of age, this 'gentleman-driver', is well known on the other side of the Atlantic for owning one of the most successful companies in security data processing, the Vanguard Integrity Professionnals (that recently developed the brand new American security system for cyberspace, alongside the White House, the CIA and the NSA). Time has now come for a new adventure. It isn't however Ronn Bailey's first attempt in such a challenge. He has indeed already made it to the North Pole on a motorcycle and also launched an expedition in the Maya jungle. To pay for this new Dakar challenge, he invested a million of his personal dollars in building a racing team: Vanguard Racing. He will take turns behind the steering wheel of the technologically advanced buggy with co-driver and compatriot Steve Myers, a reference in rally-raid racing in the USA. Now that scrutineering is over, the American duo has 8000kms of sand to cover before an expected triumph in Dakar!

Lionel Guy - Aude Aventure - 411

Exhausted before the start...

The privateers preparation for the Telefonica-Dakar is often full of sacrifices and compromise. Lionel Guy and Christian Houles, newcomers on the event, are perfect examples of that rule. But after a year and a half preparing for the big moment, the Aube area team almost saw their dream fade away. Despite having their Land Cruiser blessed by a priest back home, they almost never made it to... Barcelona. For them, the Dakar started well before the race was launched.

Leaving from the city of Carcassonne in France, it took them 72 hours to make it to Barcelona. Christian Houles, co-driver, explains the incident that could have ended up in a catastrophe for the French pair: "It took us three days to arrive. An engine problem gave us hell. We just couldn't find what the problem was. We were on the verge of looking for a new engine. Finally, we managed to start the car and we were able to delay our scrutineering by two days.

But once on the road to Barcelona, the engine problems reappeared. "Despite our eight cylinders, it sounded like we only had five or six. We only just made it to Barcelona", explains Christian. With the added physical exhaustion, the start line looked like it was moving away. "Yesterday (Wednesday), we really thought that we wouldn't make it. The hours went by and it was just getting worse and worse. But we couldn't quit just like that. We had to carry on first of all for us but also for our sponsors and our friends.

The first goal was therefore to make it to scrutineering in Catalunya. After 72 hours of distress, the two men made it to the Palau Sant Jordi, with a dreadful face and a spirit close to zero. "We were told to get to Barcelona rested. Well it's completely the opposite. We're exhausted before even having started. As soon as the scrutineering is over, we're off to bed". Despite being tired, the good spirit seems to be back thanks to the solidarity between competitors. Pascal Larroque, an old-timer on the rally and the co-driver of Jean-Pierre Strugo rapidly discovered the problem. Although the vehicle still hasn't been repaired for the Barcelona super special, confidence is back in the team. "Pascal (Larroque), that Lionel knows a bit, gave us hope. He discovered our problem and will take care of the car during the liaison between Barcelona and Granada".

Moral is almost back at its highest and the team remains optimistic to make it to the Dakar finish line. "We have no money left but we've still ordered a photo album. We now hope to go far", smiles Christian.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jean-Pierre Strugo , Pascal Larroque , Ronn Bailey