Dakar: KTM Repsol team from the inside

The KTM Repsol team from the inside Door Closed, Door Opened and Special Cancelled We left Europe behind and entered Africa. For the moment, the first special has been cancelled and we have to wait another day to start racing on African ...

The KTM Repsol team from the inside
Door Closed, Door Opened and Special Cancelled

We left Europe behind and entered Africa. For the moment, the first special has been cancelled and we have to wait another day to start racing on African ground

"Happy New Year!" we all shouted with one voice on December 31 at midnight. We were all together in Barcelona, the whole team, mechanics, riders, having dinner at a hotel restaurant celebrating our particular new year's eve. Twenty minutes later there was no one left in the room where we had enjoyed a splendid dinner, probably the last "splendid" dinner for a long time. At 00.30 a.m., most of the fellow diners were already in bed; some thinking about Granada and some further away, in Africa. We had to wake up really early the next day and there was not much time left to celebrate.

The next morning we travelled around the streets of Barcelona with thousands of bystanders waving goodbye, looking at us amazed, although there were probably some thinking about our daring adventure with scepticism...

Barcelona gave us a warm farewell, as well as the thousands of fans that left their houses on January 1 collapsing tolls, bridges and roadsides to wave at us. The motorbikers were with no doubt those who had the worst time during the liaison on Saturday. Our boys, Marc, Isidre, Jordi and Gio, made the 920 kilometres between Barcelona and Granada almost in one go. First a small stop at a service station to put on watertight suits and other warm clothes for the journey, have a quick sandwich, a bit of water, good-bye to families, girl-friends and friends and off we go! Dakar is waiting!

When we arrived at a toll post, the guy in the cabin asked us for a cap...

-"No, sorry, we are a fast assistance car and we only take the necessary things for us to use these days", we answered almost with one voice. We stopped at the roadside to meet the riders and people quickly came over to meet Marc and Jordi Duran. Gio continued his journey and Isidre hadn't arrived yet. Cars, assistance vehicles, bikes and trucks continued passing. Suddenly a Mitsubishi Montero with the bright Repsol colours got closer. It's Nani Roma, he stopped over to greet us and people ran over to get a picture, an autograph, to touch his car... But we have to move on, it gets colder at night and the La Mora pass entering Granada with its 1,380 metres in height can be more than unpleasant for our riders.

Covering the backs of our riders, watching how Marc and Jordi keep on changing their position on the bike to avoid numbness, we cover kilometre after kilometre, watching some bikes at the roadside with problems...

And we get to the La Mora pass, the temperature goes down to 0º and the road becomes tricky. We mounted stud tyres to move easier in the desert and on the sand we're going to find on our way to Dakar, so our 4x4 has much less grip than a conventional car. But we finally managed to reach Granada. Again there are people on the street waving and watching. To the service park, check the bikes and then directly to the hotel. Time for dinner and off to bed. We are nervous, tired but also optimistic. We're finally going to leave Europe and the previous stress behind. We close one door and open another: the door to Algeciras, to Tangier, the door that will lead us to Africa, the one that will later on lead us to Dakar...

Caravan to Rabat

We are the first ones to get off the ship, but once we arrived at the TC (time control) marked in the road book, we don't find anybody from the organisation...

-"What now? No way, we have to wait until somebody tells us what to do.

Otherwise we could be penalised..."

The queue of cars, bikes and even trucks around the port of Tangier becomes bigger and bigger. Finally we're told what we all imagined: we can continue to Rabat with the OK of the Stewards. Once we were sure that we wouldn't get a penalty after a control that despite being marked as such had not been made, we began our trip to Rabat. 240 kilometres in caravan, more that three hours by car on the road and then on a crowded highway.

The arrival in Rabat has not much of a history. We parked at the prepared camp, quick dinner, pitch the tent and first night in Africa under the stars. Not many hours to enjoy a deserved rest in the sleeping bag. It's the Dakar, the toughest race of the world, not only for drivers and riders. The assistances have a tough time as well; little hours of sleep, a lot on the road, endless distances and always a lot of work to do.

Reveille at five o'clock in the morning, on the road at six, the fog covers us at seven, eight, nine... We stop at the roadside and Alejandro parks the second assistance car close to ours and tells us: the bike special has been cancelled. The helicopters cannot take off due to the fog and they cannot control the riders and take care of their safety. There are still 300 kilometres ahead of us, in addition to the 300 we've already covered today on third division roads...

While we go back on the road with Alejandro Sanz, Jordi Duran's mechanic and not the famous singer, Eric, Isidre's mechanic, Lidia, our "physio", and Doctor Xavier Mir, a guest and dear guardian angel, all of them following us in the second car, the tension drops in the first car after having heard the news. No news to wait for from Spain, from somebody stuck to a computer connected to the Internet, to know how our riders are doing at CP 1, CP 2...

I've been almost six hours at the wheel while the mechanics were sleeping -- they have hardly slept two hours at night after checking the bikes, and some 150 km from Agadir I feel tired myself and think that it's about time for a deserved rest. I give the wheel over to Manel Salinas, an expert Dakarian, the one who last year pampered the bike with which Nani became a legend... Arnaldo Nicoli joins him with the navigation devices. This funny Italian is the mechanic of our new signing, veteran Giovanni Sala, great rider and even better person, who will try to help our guys to reach Dakar with possibilities to clinch the victory. And then there's Fausto, another good-natured Italian, mechanic of a privateer who joins us because we had free space in our car.

There's not much to tell about the arrival in Agadir either. Again work, work and more work. The Dakar is beginning to take its shape and we all know that this has just started.

Today is January 2, although the truth is that is doesn't really matter, it actually doesn't matter at all in the Dakar. I don't really know what day it is and I should get off the car, off the co-driver's seat, where I have installed my mobile office, to find out whether it's Monday or Tuesday... It's already nine o'clock in the evening, I still have to pitch the tent, have something to eat and get a couple of hours of sleep...only a couple, because we'll have to get up early... We're taking off to Smara in the Western Sahara at three o'clock in the morning. We'll have more news tomorrow, for sure...

-repsol-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Manel Salinas , Jordi Duran , Alejandro Sanz