Interview: Dominique Serieys, a discreet orchestra director Always from the background, this 43-year old Frenchman does a valuable job as Sports Director of the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Team Rally navigator and winner of the Dakar in his...
Interview: Dominique Serieys, a discreet orchestra director
Always from the background, this 43-year old Frenchman does a valuable job as Sports Director of the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Team
Rally navigator and winner of the Dakar in his first participation as such, he's been related to the world of motor sports for more than 20 years. Between 1978 and 1989 he was navigator in traditional rallies, both on a national and international level. Later on he entered the Dakar as Logistics and Technical Director of Bruno Saby's team, until 1992 when he arrived in what has been his home since then, the Mitsubishi team. Once with the Japanese company he started as navigator to Bruno Saby, then to Miguel Prieto and finally to Kenjiro Shinozuka. An accident in 2000 with the Japanese driver put an end to his sports career as a navigator.
In 2001 he took over the Rally Raids department at Mitsubishi, a position he still holds as Sports Director, and since then, Mitsubishi's supremacy in the Dakar has been overwhelming. Kleinschmidt in 2001, Masuoka in 2002 and 2003 and Peterhansel in 2004 have hindered any other make from taking the victory of the hardest rally of the world. Serieys is the orchestra director in charge of absolutely everything; he controls the budgets, the management, and even the strategy to be followed during the race. Given his large experience in rallies, he knows the drivers, the terrains and the strategies perfectly well, turning him into the ideal person to act as the Team Manager of the currently best team of the car class. The quality and responsibility of his work and an eternal smile on his face are his distinguishing marks, and also the answer to the question about how he's been able to be in charge of the number one team for such a long time.
The second part and final straight of the Dakar 2005 has just started. Do you think that the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Team has achieved the aims set for the first part of the race?
"Broadly speaking, yes. We had set ourselves the aim of reaching the rest day with as many cars as possible among the top ten, and, if possible, to be leading the race, although the latter was nothing vital. We reached Atar with Peterhansel in the lead, closely followed by Alphand. Masuoka was sixth, Nani eighth and Andrea fourteenth. The plan was to get to the rest day well located, without loosing any car and risking only as much as really necessary. I think that we achieved our aims."
What is your approach for the second half of the race?
"Up to now, the drivers were supposed to drive calmly, without taking risks. The rest day marked a point of inflection, because they had to start thinking about increasing the pace, if possible, with regard to the chances for the final victory, but trying to take as few risks as possible, in order not to be out of the race. Unfortunately, in the first stage after the rest day we lost two cars in a row. Masuoka managed to reach the bivouac on his own, but Andrea had to be towed by one of the assistance trucks and arrived in the camp at four o'clock in the morning... It was a real shame, but such is competition."
Are you satisfied with the evolution of your drivers so far?
"Yes, the performance of the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Team drivers is really positive. Stephane Peterhansel is a brilliant driver and he manages to surprise us every day. He's fast, reliable and constant. Last year he already showed us that he's a champion. It's the first year for Luc Alphand racing with us, but he's adapted very well to the car and the team; so much that he's even fighting for the lead with Stephane and has quite an advantage over the third qualified. Masuoka is a very impulsive driver and that took him to take too many risks in the second stage of the rally, where he suffered an incident that set him back, and did not stick exactly to the set guidelines. Fortunately he was able to stay in the race and managed to recover a lot of time in the following stages. In the end, a mechanical problem in the tenth stage forced him to retire from the rally. I'm very satisfied with Nani Roma's performance. His competitiveness hasn't surprised me at all. Every day he proves that he's learning and follows strictly all advice we give him. For example, in the ninth stage, his lack of experience with the dunes played a dirty trick on him and it took him a couple of hours to get the car out. In the following stages he has proven that he has learned, and he managed to pass the dunes much easily and more confident. He's very intelligent and he's driving with ease, avoiding unnecessary risks; I'd say that he's giving 75%. He can give more, but it's important that he does it rationally, not in an impulsive way. Andrea Mayer has also done a good job as long as she's been in the race. Too bad she had to retire when she was tenth in the overall standings."
Many people say that this is being the hardest edition of the rally's history, do you agree?
"Somehow I do. I don't think that this is the hardest edition of history but the hardest since 1998. In addition to the difficulty of many route sections there have been a series of circumstances around it that made it worse. The fog in Morocco, the never ending sand storms in Mauritania, the weather of the recent weeks that changed the state of the tracks, the accidents..."
Everything that has happened in these days, the death of the two riders; I guess that's it's been a harsh blow to your drivers?
"It's been hard for the drivers and for all of us. It's never easy to accept somebody's death, especially if you know him well. We all knew Fabrizio Meoni, he had a lot of charisma and his loss has hurt us deeply. And don't forget that both Peterhansel and Nani raced several times with him in the Dakar; they were rivals in the desert and friends in the bivouac. But we have to move on, this is a risky sport and the drivers and riders are the first to know what they are risking. Jose Manuel and Fabrizio knew and they enjoyed doing what they liked most in Africa."
A forecast for bikes and cars.
"In the motorbike class I'd bet on one of the riders of the Repsol KTM Team. I think that they're doing a great job. Coma has made hardly any mistake and Isidre is also being very strong. I prefer not to say anything about the cars, although I hope it'll be one of our Mitsubishis."
Do you bet on a podium with three Mitsubishis?
"That would be fantastic although we have to wait until Dakar to see it."