Dakar: Portraits of the Day 2007-01-14

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day Sunday, January 14, 2007 Paul Broome: "Drying out in the desert". Paul Broome is an Englishman living in the States, New Orleans to be precise, and is a specialist welder by trade. That part of the...

Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Portraits of the Day
Sunday, January 14, 2007

Paul Broome: "Drying out in the desert".

Paul Broome is an Englishman living in the States, New Orleans to be precise, and is a specialist welder by trade. That part of the world has seen a lot of water recently so Paul thought 'a change would be as good as a rest' and decided to enter the Dakar. 'I am a marathon runner and so am reasonably fit. Not that I take it too seriously. I am a member of a club called the Hash House Harriers and our motto is 'the drinking club with a running problem'. I have a sticker on my bike with the outline of a footprint with the words 'On On' marked on it, that's what we shout at each other when we are training together.

But despite his 'drinking' problem and general level of fitness, Paul has been struggling these last few days and getting more and more dehydrated. "I'm not that big but my bike, which I built in my lunch break, is. It is Honda XR650 based and so has no electric start and is hard work in the dunes."

With his 'batteries' running lower and lower Paul was particularly worried about the last stage before the rest day, from Zouerat to Atar. "I was in the dunes when I came to the edge of a big whole. I stopped with my front wheel just over the lip and tried for an hour to pull it back. Eventually I realised it was impossible, put my helmet on the top, to warn other competitors of my presence and plunged in. My team mate Steve La Roza came by and I told him that I was finished and was waiting for the sweeper truck. I sat there for about an hour thinking about life in general and my girlfriend who was coming to see me in Atar. Slowly my spirits began to lift and I decided I would try and push the bike for 10 minutes and then rest for 10 minutes. Three hours later I was out of the hole and on my way to meet my girlfriend."

Toni Manresa: "The Dakar is modesty and suffering at the same time."

Toni comes from the island of sportsmen. This is how we could call an island that is better known for its laid-back and party atmosphere. Indeed, in the Balearic Islands, sport has become a national hobby and the achievements of young local athletes are many. Toni Manresa is never tired of naming the many local champs: "in tennis, we have Nadal and Moya. In cycling, there is Miguel Alzamora. In motorcycling there is Jorge Lorenzo, who is the 2006 world champion in 250cc. And then there are the many titles we had in karate, taekwondo or gymnastics." Toni Manresa is not the kind of guy to boast because being bombastic is not his way. Built like an athlete, with grayish hair, this 47-year old designer speaks a rigorous language and is personally surprised by the many achievements of his homeland. And he certainly is no stranger to having put the Balearic Islands on the world map of sport: as pure amateur -- as he likes to call himself -- he has already written some of the best sporting pages of the island when e.g. sailing across the Atlantic in 1992. He is now writing a new page with the Dakar. "On the island, I am the first one to take part in the Dakar. I started as copilot to Pep Vila on a truck. Then last year I drove my car." This brought Toni some fame, a fame further strengthened by the very honorable 48th position he got for his first time on the rally.

The success even gave him realistic ambitions: "Taking a closer look at the rankings, I saw that the first 30 competitors in the ranking were in a tight bracket. So my aim was to be in the top 30. Unfortunately, I broke the clutch on km 15 of stage 1." But bad luck did not undermine his determination. He is now focusing on his prime goal: get to Dakar and gather even more experience to start -- when he gets back home -- a three-year project with a new car. This time around he will set the standards even higher. "Finishing in the top 20," he says without even blinking. Still as pure amateur and still with a light support crew. His 2006 budget is 240,000 euros and he owes it primarily to the support of the autonomous government of the Balearic Islands, which is very supportive of sports. But the increasing aura of Toni is also a maker of surprises: "The boss of the Can Ramis quarry looked for me because he wanted to sponsor me. He loves a good adventure and he likes my philosophy." Toni Manresa is indeed a quiet competitor: "What matters is to be modest and to be able to suffer."

This is the lesson he gives in schools and colleges in the Balearic Islands when he is asked to do so by the government. "I talk of the Dakar with my guts. But also talk about the importance of the rally for the countries we cross and about the positive aspect of the Dakar Actions of ASO. This is what the true Dakar rally is all about. It's not just the criticism you hear."

Frédéric Villy: "Playing silly in the sand, I've always been up for it..."

They turned biking into a team sport. The pleasure of a solo adventure so many competitors talk about is not how the true team made of Julio Ano and Frédéric Villy sees things. The two old pals decided to drive together, to dress the same way, to eat at the same time and to share mechanical tasks. The alchemy is delicate but works perfectly as the rookie duo has reached the rest day without trouble, whilst more than 60 bikers have already seen the broom truck or collected problems. "We did not have any major problem and more importantly, we are having a whole lot of fun. Every time we crossed a dune, it was fantastic whereas many others got stuck in the sand right away. I must say that having small bikes helps. And personally, when it comes to playing silly in the sand, I've always been up for it. Maybe it's in our blood", says Frédéric Villy -- still astonished -- at the Atar bivouac.

Technically speaking, there has been no cloud in their skies since leaving Lisbon. As for the atmosphere, the two friends, ranking 134th and 135th, still haven't had any argument either. "The problem is that the finish is on January 21st. If I was to listen to Julio, we might get there on the 22nd," says Frédéric half jokingly because he is the one really giving gas in the duet. "Fortunately, I am there to calm you down, if I didn't we would never have a chance of actually finishing;" replies Julio, who is the voice of wisdom. All in all, these two men have tempers that are both complementary and opposed. But the things they certainly agree upon are the lust for life and the trust in themselves that they deploy to face up to the challenge. "It's good to be here, but I already see myself in Dakar," says one of them. The other one has an appointment he may not miss in the capital city of Senegal: "I promised my girlfriend to marry here if I get to Dakar!"

Gautier de Hauteclocque: "I don't care how far behind I am"

Gautier de Hauteclocque doesn't look like your typical Dakar motorcycle entrant. With his tall, lean frame, glasses and scholarly air you'd be more inclined to guess at philosophy professor. In many ways his approach to the Dakar is also very different from his fellow participants. Not for him the latest water-cooled, double overhead cam missile but a venerable low-tech, air-cooled XR400 -- the oldest bike on the rally.

With no assistance he prides himself on having one of the lowest budgets, "25,000 Euros all in, that's the bike, my entry fee, hotels in Europe, the lot." He isn't much interested in the rankings either -- for him the whole thing is a giant trail ride. He does however share one thing in common with every other competitor present -- the desire to get to Dakar. "I don't care how far behind I am. I don't care how little sleep I have or how long I spend out in the dunes. I can take everything the organisers can throw at me. The only thing I fear is a breakdown or a crash; they are the only two things that can stop me achieving my ambition."

-credit: dakar.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Jorge Lorenzo , Pep Vila , Julio Ano