NANI ROMA, CARRIES FORWARD AND GOES ON IN MAURITANIA Exercising his knowledge of the desert and with larger experience than in 2005, the Repsol driver continues moving on in his second Dakar participation in the car class Now that the halfway...
NANI ROMA, CARRIES FORWARD AND GOES ON IN MAURITANIA
Exercising his knowledge of the desert and with larger experience than in 2005, the Repsol driver continues moving on in his second Dakar participation in the car class
Now that the halfway point of the 2006 Dakar Rally has been reached and after covering almost 5,000 kms in eight days, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team driver Nani Roma, makes use of the only rest day of the race to draw up a balance. Currently in fourth position, the Spanish driver is no longer the conservative driver we saw last year in the desert, but a participant heading for his aim without ceremony: finishing the hardest rally of the world on the podium. He declares that he still lacks experience in the dunes and on camel grass, where he lost precious minutes in this edition, but his driving style took him to even lead the race and to take a third place as his best result in the third stage of the rally. His team director Dominique Serieys already includes him among the title candidates, but Roma knows that his immediate aim is to keep on learning and to get on the podium in Lake Rose. There are still seven hard days to go, but Nani feels confident and decided, and he counts on the full support of the best team, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team.
Is the 2006 Dakar fulfilling your expectations?
"Yes, even more than what I had expected. I'm very satisfied with how everything has worked out so far, with my performance and the pace I'm setting. There have been some days where I've been driving together with the top crews. There is still a lot left to do in this rally and a lot to learn in the future, but I'm sure that I'll be even more competitive in the future."
Before the start you knew that the Volkswagens and the Buggies would be your main rivals. What's the difference between them and your car, the Mitsubishi Pajero?
"The Buggies are very light and fast in flat areas and the Volkswagen have improved a lot compared to last year. The twin turbo gives them an extra they didn't have before, but they've also improved as regards suspensions, the technique...in short, I'd say that they have improved in almost everything. But I still think that the Mitsubishi are better, especially on complicated surfaces such as the camel grass."
Who do you think are your main rivals on your way to the podium in Lake Rose?
"Rival number one is always the race as such. My big rivals would then be Luc, Stephane and De Villiers, because they are ahead of me, but Jutta and the rest of drivers behind are rivals as well."
You have proven to be at the level of the best and you've even been leading the race. But just as it happened to the best drivers, you've also had problems. Would you say that the fact of driving to win implies bigger risks or were it fortuitous mistakes?
"I think that I made mistakes due to my lack of experience. You can always make mistakes, but you have to learn from them in order not to repeat them. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm happy."
Your team director, Dominique Serieys said that the experience you've gathered can be seen and that you have proven that all riders of the team have possibilities to win the Dakar this year. Do you agree?
"It's true that I've progressed a lot, but I wouldn't look at me as a winner... What I have to do is to concentrate and do things well, more than thinking whether I can win or not. The aim is to go for the rally win in 2007; now it's about working and doing things right as I've been doing so far. If we don't make any mistake and keep on following this line, the results will come."
Before the start you said that last year you finished a bit frustrated because you had to be more careful than usual. You had to learn and arrive in Dakar, so you couldn't take any risk. How do you feel now?
"I feel very well. I'm racing without restrictions, just as I like it. The experience gathered since last year has allowed me to improve a lot as regards driving technique and that allows me to push harder and drive better. This does also imply more risks because the faster you are the more chances you have to get into trouble. But that's what this is about. Fortunately things can still get better."
At what a driving level do you think you are?
"I'm not at a 100% yet, although it's difficult to reflect it in a figure. I'm doing much better than one year ago and better than six months ago, but I still have a lot to learn. I've progressed in several aspects and, luckily, I still have a lot of margin to improve. Especially on camel grass and as regards keeping a high and constant pace on the dunes, but I'm doing it bit by bit. In the end I think that I'll reach an optimal driving level."
The order for the first stages was caution, staying in the leading group in order to set the differences in Mauritania. Which is the plan for this second half?
"From tomorrow, the aim s doing the three or four next stages well; they are going to be crucial. Tomorrow's stage will be very long and complicated, with a lot of sand and then we'll reach the Sahel, which is crucial as regards navigation. The most important will be avoiding any mistake, but the team is ready and trustful."
The worst and the best moment of the rally so far.
"The worst was probably some days ago in the Zouerat-Atar stage. We got lost at the start of the special and we went through a quite complicated moment. But we managed to recover, find the right way and overcome the situation to regain a good pace until the finish. The best was to lead the Dakar Rally without expecting it. I had made a very good stage and although it was one of the first African stages, I took the lead in the overall standings. It was magic."
Rosa's backpacker injured himself, and she kept her promise and retired. Are you sorry for her not being able to not even reach the halfway point of the rally or are you more calm now?
"I'm very sorry because I know how much she was looking forward to this and the huge effort she had made to be here. But she knew and she always agreed that she couldn't continue on her own, because it would mean a big worry for me."
Is the podium within your reach?
"It would be within my reach if the race would end tomorrow, but there's still half a rally to go. Now is not the moment to think about the final result. What we have to do is to keep on working as we've done so far and, I'm not going to stop repeating it, to avoid making any mistakes. The Dakar Rally is not won by the fastest but by the one who makes fewer mistakes."