The end of Dakar nears...
298km on dirt and gravel roads through farmland and over a couple of hills. No dunes, no fesh fesh, no navigating across barren desert. What could go wrong? Another before dawn start, packing away a damp sleeping bag, (I’ve learned that dew in Lithuanian is Rasa), a quick breakfast and some extra buns taken for lunch seeing as press are still not worthy of getting a snack box, and then off south in the gathering light.
The Ghostbusters theme is the first thing on the stereo. Our driver loves single lane highways. They give him the perfect opportunity to show off his road rage skills. Seatbelts securely fastened we invented a new game to replace I Spy (which has been banned in the car for over a week.) We awarded him points for every on-coming car he forced off the road, red lights he ran and how many policemen shook their fists at him (3). He has learned that Dakar traffic is immune to local traffic laws.
There was good cell coverage so I took my mind off impending twisted metal death by chatting to friends on Facebook and snoozing until 420km down the road we found ourselves at the time controls at the end of the stage. Somewhere in central Argentina it was a glorious summer’s day. The smell of grass and pollen and the smoke of BBQs.
If Argentineans sit down outside for more than 20 minutes they have to start roasting meat. Butterflies fluttered in the dust dragged up by the last of the bikers and the young girls squealed with joy when a quad rider came over to sign an autograph. Thanks to the good internet we could see the live timing and saw that car 339 was in 5th.
But then there was a MINI coming and the quad rider was hastily shooed away by the officials to make way for the champion elect at the time control. Numbers noted down, card stamped and then Nasser Al-Attityah pulled up in the interview area where some sort of unspoken hierarchy of cameramen is in play as they jostle around with bulky machines on their shoulders. I have no idea who is more important than who so I keep back out of sight and just listen.
Getting out of the car as fresh as though he’d just popped down to the shops Al-Attityah said, “I had to go fast today because if you slow down you start to loose concentration and think about other things. But we did well, no one else caught us. Everything is working 100% for us this year.”