Dakar Portraits of the Day 2007-01-12

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Friday, January 12, 2007 Albert Gryszczuk: "A Dakar car for just 16,000 Euros" Albert Gryszczuk is on his first ever Dakar and like the vast majority of entrants his ambition is simply to get to ...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Friday, January 12, 2007

Albert Gryszczuk: "A Dakar car for just 16,000 Euros"

Albert Gryszczuk is on his first ever Dakar and like the vast majority of entrants his ambition is simply to get to Dakar. Nothing usual in that. Not many first time competitors enter a car they built themselves but that isn't the most extraordinary aspect of his adventure. Nor is the fact the other car he has built and is assisting his has been entered by fellow Poles -- the father and son pairing of Robert and Ernest Gorecki - even if such family crews are a rarity on the race.

No, the really extraordinary aspect of the whole adventure is the price at which he will sell you one of his creations. "You give me a Range Rover V8 engine, an automatic gearbox and a transfer box and I will build you exactly the same car complete with FIA homologation papers for just 16,000 Euros." When you consider that most ready to race Land Rover based packages are at least 100,000 Euros this is very extraordinary indeed. So how does this determined young man do it? "I keep things as simple as possible. I use late 80s Ranger Rover parts that are easy to source and cheap to buy. Above all they are strong and simple. There are no electronic management systems to worry about, modify or go wrong. My car might not be as beautiful as some of the others here, but for anyone with modest ambitions and a limited budget I think it is an interesting proposition."

Standing proudly between his two creations, at the wind swept bivouac in Tan Tan, Albert is still a long way from Lac Rose, but as he is quick to point out, he has got considerably further than many of his rivals behind the wheels of vehicles costing ten times as much!

Merkit Kemal - Kutlu Torunlar: Turkish delight!

Merkit Kemal is on his fourth Dakar and as always is doing his own assistance. "I like the challenge of doing my own bike, it is a bit like climbing Everest without oxygen, but it can get a bit lonely. Also, although my English is pretty good, there aren't so many Turkish speakers on the race and sometimes it is nice to talk in your mother tongue. Kemal's solution to this dual problem - persuade his friend and Turkish enduro champion Kutlu Torunlar to come along.

The other break in tradition Kemal has made this year concerns his choice of bike. Instead of his trusty KTM 660 Rallye, for 2007 he has opted for a Meca System kitted 450 KTM enduro bike. And once again pragmatism has influenced his choice. "To be honest I loved my 660, the engine is fantastic, but in terms of results I can't do much against the factory bikes. The 450 class however is much more accessible in terms of results and as far as finding sponsorship it is better to be a biggish fish in a smallish pond..."

Although Kutlu is a rally-raid virgin, up until now it has been him that has been looking after Kemal rather than the other way round. "I have had a stomach upset since Portugal and have been feeling very weak. All I have been able to keep down is bread and coke a cola", admits Kemal.

Well the situation slightly changed on African soil... Time for the more experienced Kemal to take care of the newcomer. Morocco has indeed been a nightmare for Torunlar: "I first fell on the way to Ouarzazate and thought I had broken my collarbone but it seems that it's only sprained. Then during stage 5, I completely twisted my knee. The medical staff told me that the ligaments could be damaged". Tough times for this former Olympic windsurfer who could hardly stand on his left leg. "I'll have to see in the morning how the knee feels", insisted the Turkish rider before heading straight to his tent for a well deserved rest in Tan Tan.

Christophe Robert: "Targeting Atar"

Privateers with no assistance are a group of people which is a haven for the unknown. They own a little piece of tarmac where low-budget amateurs get together, where those who could not get enough sponsors to pay for an assistance team flock. People often arrive late and certainly work almost all the time. Arrived at Tan Tan, Christophe Robert can say that -- for now -- he has been spared by big trouble but certainly not by the small hiccups that make the day's work longer: "Today, I have to change the filter, I must tighten the chain, repair the rear brake and do an oil change. I still have three hours of work ahead, as I did yesterday and the day before yesterday. I am starting to feel tired, all the more so as I was already pretty dead beat when I got to Lisbon; my bike only arrived two weeks before the start and I was moving houses at the same time!"

A hard-working man, Christophe is not worried about the idea of having to work some more on his bike. But concern is growing as Mauritania is approaching because Mauritania has always meant trouble for him: "I never managed to cross Mauritania in my four previous participations. I never even got to the rest day yet. I already went up to Zouerat but beyond, it's the unknown." Despite his long list of small problems, this bike and pinball fan intends to beat his longevity record in the rally: "For the time being, I still cannot really find where the oil leak I see comes from. But if the bike holds, I am not afraid of sand dunes."

Med Zidane Soueid Ahmed: "Mauritania is so welcoming that it encourages you to go on."

Med Zidane Soueid Ahmed, a man with clear eyes and a haughty stature, has just listened to the briefing of Etienne Lavigne. He has been in Zouerat for a few hours and his arrival on home turf has led to unseen enthusiasm. "Mauritania is a country where sport is not much cared for and my participation in the Dakar is quite an event", he says. Biker 187 is the first Mauritanian to participate in the raid rally and the reaction of his countrymen is a delight to him. "It is so encouraging to see such a crowd." Children, soldiers, inhabitants from Zouerat created quite a turmoil at the bivouac of stage 6 when the pilot showed up. This was a very funny and moving scene at the same time.

The country is missing a higher profile and Med Zidane has been propelled to status symbol overnight. "This gave me quite a boost", he says first. "But it is also nice if it can help develop sport and the image of motorcycling in the country," he adds. Med Zidane knows what he's talking about. His participation is the fruit of connections and friendships because the sports ministry supported the participation of this young business manager from Nouakchott. This was not easy in a country where motorcycling is perceived rather badly. "Here, motorcycling is seen as a thing for rascals and garage owners," he says in a fatalistic way.

But Med Zidane does all he can to make the headlines again by reaching Lake Rose. This is not an easy challenge for an accomplished biker indeed, but who had not been on his motorcycle for 7 months before starting from Lisbon and whose job as a communication and marketing agency manager only allowed for limited preparation to the rally. "A week of jogging was all I had." But Med Zidane has a few aces up in his sleeve. He's been racing for about a decade in Senegal, Togo and Algeria. And he knows the desert well. "I can do dunes pretty well," he admits. "Several competitors have seen it and followed me in the first dunes of Morocco." Med Zidane is in his backyard in the stages of Mauritania. This may create a few vocations in one of the emblematic countries of the Dakar.

-credit: dakar.com

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