Dakar: Portraits of the Day 2007-01-11

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Thursday, January 11, 2007 Mick Extance: "A place in the top 20" Englishman Mick Extance is absolutely adamant, he is not going to put anther penny of his own money into the Dakar. "Quite simply ...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mick Extance: "A place in the top 20"

Englishman Mick Extance is absolutely adamant, he is not going to put anther penny of his own money into the Dakar. "Quite simply because I don't have any left! This is my sixth year competing in the motorcycle class and I have put every pound I have ever earned into this race, I've even mortgaged my house!" That said, this is the first year Mick hasn't had to put his hand too deep into his own pocket. "For 2007 I am part of Honda Europe's team and have an excellent CRF450 based bike to ride. As I am now the leading UK rider it is a little easier to find sponsors than before, but it is still very hard. This year my wife and I managed to raise 40,000 Euros, but you spend so much time chasing after the money that sometimes I think it would be easier just to go an earn it". And the sport in all that? "A place in the top 20. To some people that might not sound like much, but let me tell you, when you are racing against some of the best off-road riders in the world, on an enduro based 450 it is a major challenge. Last year I didn't make it, but every year you gain more experience and I reckon I can do it in 2007. At the moment I am lying around the 40th position and I don't intend to try and finish any higher than that in Morocco, where so much can go wrong. But once we get into the dunes I plan to start moving up the field."

Yannick Guyomarc'h: "I'm running on local oil"

On the docks in Nador, the situation was already looking difficult for Yannick Guyomarc'h, distraught about the consequences of overlooking the mechanical well-being of his motorbike. Due to a poorly tightened drain cap, which he lost during the second of the Portuguese specials, a chain reaction of events compromised his hopes of success: "The engine got hot, so I stopped a little bit before it burned out completely, but it was as if my bike had done 50,000 kilometres all at once. To start with, I plugged it with a piece of wood, re-filled the oil and for the moment it's working okay".

Three days later, the Parisian fireman's Honda 400 XR is still hanging in there. It is somehow getting used to the treatment inflicted upon it since the journey through Morocco: "For the special stages, I set off with oil canisters in my backpack and I stop every 200 km to add oil before any problems occur. In particular, I'm being careful not to harm the bike, so I'm riding very gently. Afterwards, on the connection sections, I get oil from the local petrol stations. I reckon that now my engine is probably in a similar state to the bikes that you find over here, so I'm putting the same products in. Sometimes it almost looks like honey: I don't know exactly what I'm putting in the engine, but for the moment it's working".

The mechanical health of his two-wheeler is not his main worry, however. Yannick wants to explore Mauritania a little longer then last year: "Now that I'm riding at the rear, the problem is that I have a lot more difficulties with the dust. For example, I've already fallen three times, whereas in 2005 I didn't fall once until I had to abandon in Nouakchott". Just to make it a little harder, the Parisian hurt his collar bone during one bout of 'acrobatics'. Dakar is still a long way away!

Tim Coronel: "She knows how to keep me calm!"

The Dakar is "an extraordinary adventure", the competitors will tell you, "And one that you can do as a couple" add Tim Coronel and Gaby Uljee. These two have been together for twelve years and decided to do the Dakar in unison this year, with Tim Coronel behind the wheel (owner of an indoor carting track and a minor celebrity in the world of Dutch motor sports) and Gaby Uljee (a designer by profession) taking care of the road-book. To date, their adventure has been going rather well. "Nobody thought that we would get this far", admits Tim, 71st in the general rankings on leaving Morocco.

In the cockpit of their Bowler, the driver/co-pilot relationship is working perfectly. "It's better than I thought it would be. I must admit that she's often right and that annoys me a bit", admits Tim smiling. "She knows when to hold me back. Back home, they call me "The Flying Dutchman", but she knows how to keep me calm".

This Dakar is very likely to change the lives of Tim and Gaby, both totally hooked on this event which they already want to attempt again. "I've taken part in almost all car races, apart from the Le Mans 24 hours, and I have to say that this is the most extraordinary rally I have ever experienced in my whole life. You never know what to expect. Every 100 m there is something exciting. We're really at one with nature".

Tim had asked twin brother Tom Coronel, the best privateer in the world touring car championship, to accompany him on this Dakar: "But it would have been difficult to be in the same car together. We would have had fights to see who drives". In any case, they have agreed to meet Tom in Dakar for one hell of a party if the Dutch crew manages to make it to the Pink Lake.

Juan Miguel and German Fidel: "We were born on the sand"

Two brothers, two cars and one single ambition: to reach Dakar. For their first participation, this might seem ambitious. But when you get to know the two Fidel brothers, Juan Miguel and German, it already seems much more plausible. Born in Melilla, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, the two brothers have become local motor sports stars. Juan Miguel even boasts jokingly, "I'm the Fernando Alonso of Melilla". In particular, the two Fidel's know the Moroccan and Mauritanian tracks like no other. The tracks of the Dakar are their natural play-ground. "You could say that we were born on the sand", explain the two natives of a town with no more than 70,000 inhabitants, where off-road vehicles are the preferred form of transport.

Driving in the desert is an everyday occurrence for the natives. Furthermore, each year, the Dakar arrives in Melilla. It is impossible not to give in to temptation, and the two brothers duly have. There fellow citizens even suggested they take part. A huge wave of support helped them build up a project throughout 2006 that includes 150 sponsors, big and small. The excitement reached its peak when the Dakar caravan sailed into the port of Nador. German was expecting it but still cannot believe it.

"There were hundreds of people there for us, and plenty of banners. One of them said "Melilla con nuestros pilotos" (Melilla supports its drivers)". German does not say that one was specially dedicated to him: "Para mi gordito" (for my little chubby one), written by his fiancee Uafa. However, the shock wave created by the Fidel brothers did not stop there. Their supporters followed them right into the desert. Several groups were waiting for them on their journey to Ouarzazate, but since the last Moroccan stage, they have been on their own. "We succeeded in the first part of our challenge by staying in the race in Morocco. Now, we have to arrive in Dakar at all costs. The Mayor and Governor of Melilla are planning to come to the finishing line". The Fidel brothers know everything about the desert and dunes. Now they need to deal with the pressure of being standard-bearers.

-credit: dakar.com

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