Dakar: Face to Face, day three

Face to Face The Dakar Magazine January 2, 2005 Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind... Robert Knecht - www.robby-dakar.com - 226 "I was destined for...

Face to Face
The Dakar Magazine
January 2, 2005

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

Robert Knecht - www.robby-dakar.com - 226

"I was destined for the Dakar!

Switzerland's Robert Knecht says it all on the front of his bike: a huge yellow sticker with his nickname 'smiling Robby', so that "people see on the outside, what I'm doing under my helmet". When hopping off his bike on the podium to wave to the wild Granada crowd after a 900km liaison, Robert Knecht showed that he was certainly one of the happiest privateers on the Dakar. The reason for that is that his happiness was almost wasted by a bad fall during the super special on the beach of Barcelona.

"I really am the worst privateer of this Dakar. I found myself in a hospital after only one special!" Indeed, delighted to start the rally and try to attack in the opening kilometres on the sand, 'Robby' went flying off his KTM 450cc and landed on his head. The biker was forced to head to a hospital just to check if his back and spinal pain wouldn't prevent him from carrying on the rally. "I was in pain during the whole day but it's nothing compared to the happiness of being here. Added to that I'm pretty proud of my 149th place in the super special despite my fall.

At 33 years of age, this former police officer has learnt sports by himself: rugby, gymnastics, modern pentathlon, running, skiing, diving, sky-diving, mountain biking and of course... riding a bike ever since the youngest age. So why start the Dakar today? "To suffer pain, day after day, to fight against exhaustion and against myself, to speak to my bike, to live huge frights, to realise that all the pain and suffering gives way to joy, pride and the satisfaction of achieving a goal. That's what the Dakar is all about. I always knew that I was destined to ride in such an event. In 2004, I went to see the start in Clermont Ferrand and that's how I made up my mind. I thought: this race is for me.

He then went to train hard during the whole year and prepared physically and technically during a training camp in Algeria in February. "That's why the doctor's could never have stopped me after my fall. I still have my story to live on the Dakar...

On his KTM 450, easier to ride and lighter than its big sister, the 660cc, this father of a 4 year-old girl, hopes to make it to the Lac Rose... but most of all have fun. And he insists that "life is a party and one has to enjoy it. I started doing that today: I really enjoyed the liaison. There were a lot of fans on the side of the road, especially on the bridges so I tried to answer back to as many as possible. But I really believe that I had more fun then they did.

Patrick Sireyjol - Fun Bike - 421

We expected a calmer New Year's Eve

"One can be headed for his 19th Dakar, and still have bad surprises. That's exactly what happened during New Year's night to Patrick Sireyjol. While preparing for a peaceful "New Year's eve celebration" in a restaurant with his co driver Paul Vidal, someone stole the Frenchman's bag... and in the bag where the keys to his Toyota. The problem is that with modern anti-start systems, one has to change the whole device if the key is lost. Indeed, the receptor included in the steering column just accepts one signal.

To sort the problem, there was only one possibility for the n°421 crew: to go back to France to find a new 'steering column & key' package, then come back as quickly as possible to Barcelona and change the whole system before 12h27, their starting schedule for the 2nd stage. So, at 9 PM on Friday, the two colleagues jumped in a car and headed to Nîmes, in the South of France. A town where Patrick Sireyjol knows a mechanic friend who might have a spare system. They made it at midnight in Nîmes, where they quickly found a new package. After some short hours of rest, the n°421 crew hit the road again to Barcelona, where they arrived at 8AM. After having Patrick Zaniroli, the race director's agreement, they changed the whole system in less than 2 hours, before normally starting the second stage. "It's nothing. These kind of things can happen, it's part of the Dakar, explained Patrick Sireyjol will repairing. The most important thing is to be on the starting podium and be able to continue the race. For our expedition back to Nimes, we took turns behind the steering wheel not to be too exhausted before the following long liaison".

It just seems that the Dakar has something against poor old Paul Vidal. Indeed, after 4 appearances on a bike that ended up with 4 withdrawals, the mayor of Toussieu in the Rhône area, thought he would live a calmer experience on four wheels this year. "Physically, I just couldn't carry on in the bike race. Last year, during the 5th stage, I understood that I was too old to ride a bike. The Dakar has therefore been bad to me on two wheels so I hope it'll be nicer on 4. Compared to bikes, it's less tiring. In a car, one has 50% more chances to finish the rally. And anyhow, my cardiologist wouldn't have let me leave on a bike.

And to make his chances even better to make it to the Lac Rose finish line, this 54 year old music lover, who played in an orchestra for 12 years, has chosen a excellent companion in experienced Patrick Sireyjol who managed to finish 15 times out of 18. "What made me make up my mind was knowing that Patrick and I have the same calm when things get bad. And although my first idea was to compete as a driver, I still need experience and I know that with Patrick, that's exactly what I will have in terms of piloting".


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Series Dakar
Drivers Patrick Sireyjol