Latrach and the Leons: Chilean tenacity personified "We knew what was in store for us, so we prepared for everything". And with that, Alejandro Leon and his son open the side door of their Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and proudly display their cave...
Latrach and the Leons: Chilean tenacity personified
"We knew what was in store for us, so we prepared for everything". And with that, Alejandro Leon and his son open the side door of their Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and proudly display their cave of Ali Baba: tent, survival blankets, rations, sleeping bags, water, etc. "We've even got a pillow!" says the father, whilst his son, Alvaro, tells about their adventures of the last few days: "The 2 stages before the rest day and the following day were very difficult: we had problems with the radiator and electric components, with everything in fact. But we didn't panic, we simply repaired it. We slept on the special stage routes otherwise we wouldn't have had the strength to finish". For their first Dakar, the Leons, father and son, are doing so well that by the day before the arrival in Santiago they are still racing whilst 5 other Chilean cars have withdrawn. Even better, they finished the 9th stage in 20th place. "We have no problems with camping under the stars. In fact, we've been taking part in the Chilean off-road championship for the last five years," they explain, to show that it is just par for the course for them. The imposing figure of Jorge Latrach, impeccably dressed in his overalls, rejoins his countrymen. By dint of his tenacity, he is also helping to keep the Chilean flag still flying on the Dakar, and is accompanied by his son as well. "We're just well prepared," he claims. The last two of the nation's crews, out of 7 at the start, are happy as night falls on La Serena: their limited resources are not preventing them from writing a deserved page in the history of Chilean sport, as a family.
Rose of the desert
She has worked hard to promote the Dakar in Great Britain, sometimes in spite of herself, like when she suffered a nasty fall and ruptured her spleen in 2003. Since then, Patsy Quick has moved from behind the handlebars to assisting competitors, at the head of Team Desert Rose Racing. Her role has many aspects: "It covers sister, mother, mechanic, team manager... A bit of everything. As a former Dakar rider, I try to make the rally as easy as possible for our bikers". The numbered seven at the start in Buenos Aires, but only four of them were still in the race on the road to Copiapo. "I'm not here to tell them how to do it, just to give them some bits of advice. Afterwards, it's up to them". Patsy, who had to wait until 2006 to become the first British woman to finish the Dakar, admits that she would not be against another attempt at the rally. "I have to say that if the Dakar returned to Africa, it's possible that I would be very tempted". In the meantime, the Englander is enjoying the company of her "January friends" as she calls them and is pampering her young protegee Tamsin Jones, currently last but one in the general standings, who dreams of reaching the end of this unique adventure.
Strugo: 25 Dakars and counting
In total, Jean-Pierre Strugo has spent almost a full year of his life behind the wheel of a 4x4 on the Dakar. Each morning at the start, he sets himself a sporting goal which gives him the energy required for the kilometres to be gobbled up during the day. In Buenos Aires, he climbed into his Nissan prepared by Team Dessoude with the ambition of stepping onto the podium in the "Production" category. However, the situation soon became complicated. "On the second day, we broke the rear driveshaft and lost more than three hours as a result. Already victory was out of reach, but we could still try to climb onto the podium. After that we've had problems every day, so we've been constantly revising our objectives downwards. Now, we're not aiming for the podium in our category, we're just aiming to get to Buenos Aires". A fiery competitor, the Parisian is not however thinking about reaching the Argentine capital at a gentle pace: "I've already completed the rally 16 or 18 times, so it isn't crucial for us to get there. We still want to drive well and fast so that we can enjoy ourselves".
EAS747 on Despres's tail
Even if his (or her) efforts are no way near as physical as even the lowest ranked of all the bikers, on completion of the 9th stage, EAS 747 is the equivalent of a little more than half an hour behind the leader of the Dakar, Cyril Despres. Of course, these are virtual rankings, for Virtual Dakar, the rally's official game that allows web surfers to put themselves in the shoes of a rider or driver on the Dakar. It is a winning formula: more than 132,000 people have signed up and must control their direction, speed, engine and physical condition. In the bike standings, the leader of the Virtual Dakar boasts a time of 36 hours and 34 minutes, whereas in real life Despres clocks in with 35 hours and 58 minutes, meaning the virtual leader would be in second place in the general standings. As regards the day's stage, with La Serena as its destination, Rosinette85 flew through the dunes in 2 hours and 38 minutes but not as quickly as the real riders, in particular Marc Coma who crossed the finishing line in 2 hours and 12 minutes.