Dakar: Portraits of the Day 2007-01-09

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Tuesday January 9, 2007 Jean-Pierre Méallet: "The truck was stopped by the police" "I had sworn not to drink a single beer during all the rally, though I think I'll allow myself one this evening",...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Tuesday January 9, 2007

Jean-Pierre Méallet: "The truck was stopped by the police"

"I had sworn not to drink a single beer during all the rally, though I think I'll allow myself one this evening", sighs Jean-Pierre Méallet on entering the lounge of the Ciudad de Salamanca (City of Salamanca), the ferry which finally carried him over the Mediterranean to get to grips with the African part of the rally. Why? Because a spanner has already been thrown in the works of this adventure which the business manager has been dreaming of since childhood. Not on the tracks, though: "It was perfect", he purrs. It was in the wings of the race that he and three other unlucky bikers encountered their first set-back for the start of the rally. "Our assistance team organised the transfer of our bikes from the finishing line of the special stage to Malaga by truck, to give us a rest during the 400-kilometre connection section". It was a rather good idea, but the truck in question, which was not sporting the official Dakar stickers, should not have been on the motorway on Sunday, at least not in the eyes of the Spanish police: "When we called them to see where they were, once we had arrived in Malaga, we found out that the truck, which also had problems with its discs, had been stopped by the police. It was already almost 17.00, so we headed straight back to Seville to recover our bikes".

Without asking for explanations from the driver, which would no doubt have proved a stormy affair, our four friends jumped on their bikes straight away with only one thought: to get back to the port by the difficult deadline of 21.00. "On arrival in Malaga, we got lost and a kid on a scooter guided us to the port. But we got separated from our two friends Karl Vauclin and Joël Moro", explains Jean-Pierre in the company of Pascal Browet. The two stragglers finally arrived at the port in time to take the following ferry. The small team managed to escape with a slight fright and several hours sleep less than they wanted.

Anthony Fillatre: "I can't ride any slower"

It probably stems from the desire to do well. Anthony Fillatre already identified the risks to his participation before arriving in Lisbon. "I'll need to control my hotheadedness", admitted the young man, reflecting on his chances of reaching Dakar for his first rally-raid. Nevertheless, he had not imagined that his exuberance would play tricks on him as early as the first Portuguese special stage: "I ended up off the road after only a few kilometres, although I didn't feel I had overdone it. I can't ride any slower than I do. In any case, I got back up and set off straight away, even though I strained my calf muscle in my right leg", he says, limping, two days after his caper.

An old friend of the entire Morel family, Anthony had hoped to ride most of the rally alongside Antoine, the father, and Alan, the son. However, the difference in ranking due to his mistake on the first day, and a puncture that held him up the following day, put paid to that idea and he is now riding alone. These circumstances could be beneficial to his apprenticeship of the rally, though: "I'll have to learn how to navigate. Apart from one week of training during which we learned to read the road-books, I haven't got a clue. I hope that by the Mauritanian stages I will have caught up with Antoine and Alan (Morel) in the general rankings, because I'm a little frightened by the idea of ending up all by myself out there". In addition to learning how to read, he chiefly needs to learn to be cautious.

Chris Jones: "My wife is back home rooting for me."

Most Dakar privateers are quick to admit that simply getting to the start line is hard work. Perhaps the most often cited obstacle is raising the finance. That is usually followed by lack of time. Privately many will admit that getting their partner to give their approval wasn't that easy either. American motorcycle entrant Chris Jones however would appear to be an exception to the rule. "To be honest my wife has been the driving force in my Dakar project. It all started three years ago at the end of a motorcycle trip we made from the States all the way down to the bottom of South America. We were watching the Dakar there on TV and she said I should have a go." Since that time, getting to the Dakar start line has taken up a considerable amount of the couple's spare time. First of all Chris had to prefect his off-road riding skills and then he had to prepare his KTM Adventurer. "I built the bike myself and know my around it pretty well, which as it turns out is just as well as my assistance truck has broken down and I have a feeling I won't be seeing it any time soon. That obviously makes the whole thing a lot tougher, so it is good to know my wife is back home rooting for me."

Robbie Allan: "I'm taking it at my own pace"

At 66 years old, Robbie Allan is the oldest rider on this Dakar. The Scotsman was like a wide-eyed kid on discovering the Dakar: "I've never seen anything quite like it", he declared on the evening of the bivouac at Er Rachidia. "It's world's last great challenge". This father of three did not have too much trouble getting approval from his family. "I've been married to him and have had to put up with him for 42 years, so I couldn't do anything else but accept", admits his wife. Nonetheless, his youngest daughter told him that it World be his "first and last Dakar". The brother of Vic Allan, four-times motocross champion of Great Britain, Robbie is a sturdy guy who is used to major rallies on dirt tracks as well as roads. "Between us, we have 95 years' experience of riding".

Old Robbie came to Lisbon with his wife and brother two weeks before the start of the rally and like a true Scotsman, he fine-tuned his physical preparation with a dip in the sea on Christmas Day. It was a good way to get to grips with a race that he discussed with legendary countryman Colin McRae, the former world rally champion who drove for Nissan on the Dakar in 2004 and 2005. At any rate, the good advice of the most experienced of the two helped Robbie Allan to finish the third stage, the first in Africa this year, in 223rd position (out of 236), more than three hours behind the winner. "It was a bad day for me. Everything was fine in Portugal, but I had fuel problems and lost one and a half hours. I'm sick as a parrot, because I've tumbled down the general rankings", insisted the ambitious rider. "Mind you, I'm not very happy with the attitude of some car drivers. Some of them aren't very nice. I nearly got smashed right in the face by a big stone thrown up by a car that was overtaking me. I didn't get the number, but I could recognise the vehicle. And if I find it..."

He now has the first Moroccan special stage behind him, but the main difficulties will arrive in Mauritania. "I'm taking it at my own pace, on my own. I'm managing to use the road-book but I haven't a clue with the GPS". The sixty-something continues to discover the Dakar as he pitches his tent for a short night's sleep...

-credit: dakar.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Chris Jones