Dakar: Repsol - Nani Roma interview

Interview: Nani Roma, slow but steady Despite getting stuck in the Mauritanian dunes for almost two hours, the Spanish driver is surprisingly eighth in the overall standings. Incredible for many, possible for some, Nani Roma has shown his ...

Interview: Nani Roma, slow but steady

Despite getting stuck in the Mauritanian dunes for almost two hours, the Spanish driver is surprisingly eighth in the overall standings.

Incredible for many, possible for some, Nani Roma has shown his skills at the wheel of his Mitsubishi MPR11. He even managed to be sixth in the overall standings surprising all and sundry, but the dunes between Tidjikja and Atar, the worst terrain due to his lack of experience, took their toll. The halfway point of the Dakar has been reached, but there's still a lot to be decided, because they've actually raced only 1,671 km of special stages and there are 2,880 km left.

Once in the race, what are the differences between the car and the bike?

"Everything was new to me, but I've felt differences between tests and race on all levels. Until the Dakar I hadn't raced with the definitive car and the differences between the test we made in France before coming and the Dakar as such have become really big. The cockpit is small, the visibility reduced, the gear-change, braking with the left foot, change of mentality, preparing the stage... It's thrilling to learn something new every day and to see that you're improving. Fortunately I got the best car and my navigator helps me a lot, but coming from a victory on the bike it is difficult to change the winner's mentality and focus on learning. That's what I have to do this year in order to have chances to win in a not so far future."

What does Africa look like from the car?

"You see everything smaller because you have less visibility from the car. You feel freer on the bike, the air touches you, and you see things to your right and to your left... You're shut in the car, and although your navigator tells you what to do, it's much more difficult to see what's around you."

Before the start in Barcelona, did you really believe that you would be so much in the front?

"I've managed to be sixth and despite being stuck in the dunes for two hours in yesterday's stage, now I'm eighth. To tell you the truth I'm surprised about how competitive I'm being. When I started and saw that there were 18-20 official cars with very good drivers, with a lot of experience in cars, I thought to myself, that if I managed to be among the top ten at any time it would be a great achievement. The race has taken its toll, it's been very hard and there are some complicated days ahead. I'm only looking forward to learning, to start everyday to do it the best I can, not taking too many risks, because he most important thing is to arrive in Dakar and to be there to help my team-mates. But I was surprised of how easy it's been for me to adapt to the car, to find the good feeling with the Mitsubishi. I know that I have chances to be competitive some day."

Do you feel more pressure and competitiveness now, compared to the first day?

"Not really. It's true that the first day, when I finished fifteenth or sixteenth, I didn't feel any pressure at all, but when I moved-up to sixth the own exigencies and competitiveness increased. The most important thing is to learn, but the winner's mentality is always there; I'd love to win, I want to be as much in the front as possible, but I'm also conscious that I don't know how to drive the car in the desert and got to feel it yesterday. Being stuck in the dunes was an important dose of reality and humility. I have to think about it every day, several times, to avoid making mistakes, having an accident, breaking something and getting stuck in the track. For me it's important to race calm and finish; the years with me taking the start to go for the victory are yet to come."

How has been the experience of changing from the best bike team to the best car team?

"KTM's organisation is very good but Mitsubishi's logistics are exceptional. They are people with a lot of experience; they have been working in this race for many years. It's not easy to move a car team like ours because we're more than 60 people, but everything is perfectly well organised and structured. I'd say that this is the team with the best logistics."

A forecast for the winner in the car class.

"A Mitsubishi, Stephane or Luc, they are the drivers with the best chances. But we're only halfway the race. We haven't even made half of the total special kilometres, and therefore we have to be prudent."

And in bikes?

"The race is more open, if that's possible, and I think that they have a difficult race ahead. I really hope that both Marc and Isidre continue doing their job as they've been doing it so far, in the front and fighting, reaching Dakar as the leaders."


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Series Dakar
Drivers Nani Roma