Alone in the desert Seven at the start, two on the rest day, but how many at the end? The competitors who decided to take part in a single place McRae buggy have not had an easy task on the Dakar 2010. Striking, clean, smiling and ambitious,...
Alone in the desert
Seven at the start, two on the rest day, but how many at the end? The competitors who decided to take part in a single place McRae buggy have not had an easy task on the Dakar 2010.
Striking, clean, smiling and ambitious, they were the seven competitors who chose to experience the Dakar in a McRae buggy. The scene took place in Buenos Aires during scrutineering. They soon realised that driving the rally in this sort of vehicle would not just be a pushover. The 4X2 McRae Buggy project was dreamed up several years ago by the late Colin McRae, before the reigns were taken up by his brother Alistair. A man of experience was still missing, but Chris Leyds filled that gap, arriving at McRae in 2008, to take over and bring this crazy adventure to a successful conclusion, whilst driving this funny machine at the same time. With a 3-cylinder 1500 horsepower snow-mobile engine, this 800-kilo single place buggy has a sequential gearbox, which means it does not possess a clutch, just the accelerator and brake pedals. This should mean that driving is easier and the engine extremely manoeuvrable, if a little lacking in speed. However, the results on conclusion of only the third stage, leading to Fiambala, tell their own story: 4 buggies withdrew from the race; electrical problems for one, engine problems for another. As for Mauro Castelnuovo, he simply decided to withdraw because he reckoned the project was just too crazy. The following day, it was the turn of former Motorbike GP rider Jurgen Van Den Goorbergh to say goodbye to the event due to transmission problems.
That still left two brave drivers, Tim Coronel and Chris Leyds, and a whole host of dunes to climb and mishaps to overcome. "When I was contacted about this project, I knew it would be a real adventure and that it would be perfect for me," explains Tim Coronel, who is taking part in his 3rd Dakar, but his first one alone. "But I didn't expect to suffer so much. However, the buggy works well in the dunes," admits the Dutchman. As proof, Coronel started in last position in the special at Antofagasta yet reached CP2 (at the 79 km point) after a long stretch of dunes with the 37th best time... "It was great driving in the sand, but if you get stuck, it's terrible..." Another major difficulty is being alone in the car. "I had a puncture and you have to repair it all by yourself, which demands a lot of energy. In this heat, it's exhausting. Within a 20 minute period, I must have drunk 3 litres of water. And when you get stuck, since you're on your own, the only solution is to wait for the assistance truck, which is what often happened to me".
Since Fiambala, the whimsical Dutchman has rarely reached the bivouac before nightfall. Worse still, he finally reached Antofagasta on the rest day at 15.00, giving him just enough time to shower, eat and most importantly sleep, before looking ahead to the return journey to the Argentine capital. "I will never withdraw. I want to reach Buenos Aires. Of course, it will be hard, because it demands a lot of both man and machine". Is he ready to try it again? "Never, never again. At least, not all on my own".