Mayer, a devotee in a truck
She knows the Dakar like the back of her hand. She made her debut in 1996, starting a series of seven participations in a motorbike which culminated with a 23rd placed finish in the general standings in 2002. With a firmly anchored competitive spirit, Andrea Mayer picked up a remarkable 5th place in the car category in 2003 and continued on four wheels for several years. This year, she is again undergoing a new experience by driving a truck. "It's so much different from the competition. When I was on a bike or in a car, I raced the rally and battled to win seconds. This time, I'm experiencing the Dakar at a completely different pace. It's a lot calmer and the job is totally different: the main thing is to look after the truck". In fact, Andrea Mayer is trying out a new challenge: providing rapid assistance for the BMW X-Raid team. This mission has called on her to spend lots of time looking after competitor 301, Stephane Peterhansel, during the crossing of the Andes, at the Paso San Francisco pass, when the race took Ruta 60 to travel from Copiapo to Chilecito. Her job combines both the professional and the personal, because the German driver is none other than the partner of the six times winner of the big category and three times winner of the car race.
A small short-cut for Duclos!
Murmurs of surprise could be heard around the finishing line of the special leading to Cordoba when the time achieved by Alain Duclos was announced, up there with those of Despres and Coma. Although his riding talents are now recognised, the time gained on the two KTM riders seemed suspicious. In fact, the Franco-Malian biker had taken one hell of a short-cut by unintentionally missing the 63-kilometre loop on the route of the special. "My trippy had broken, so I wasn't in phase with the road-book. As a result, I saw the fork in the road between the bike route and the truck route too late and I set off on the wrong one. After that, I thought it would be too dangerous to turn around so I carried on in the same direction, since I'm no longer bothered by my position in the general standings". After mechanical problems and a fall, it is now a blunder that will cost Duclos several hours in penalties. "I've had everything happened to me, but I'd rather experience all these trials and tribulations this year, to be able to start on a clean slate for the next time". For the liberties he took with the route, the Aprilia rider received a 12-hour time penalty.
Singing in the mud
The storms during the previous night made the 12th stage of the Dakar particularly difficult for the competitors, especially the bikers. Frenchman Bruno Da Costa, delighted to have finished with the 555-km special, was not looking at his smartest at the finishing line. "At the start of the special, I skidded and ended up in the mud. I was covered in it. After that, I fell in a stream and I was soaked. First the mud, then the water..." The Gallic Yamaha rider did not do too badly at all, completing the special in 33rd place. Now the time has come to finish with this first Dakar. "As long as the man and the machine can keep going..."