As from the last Dakar, the Argentinean Authorities have been painstaking in securing the non-racing sections of the rally's route, mobilising a fleet of cars and plenty of people. This preventive scheme is also aimed at educating the public and is well received by the spectators. The operation is in keeping with the general deployment of 25,000 police officers for the safety of the spectator zones.
They try to be everywhere -- and what's more they manage to be. Ahead of the race when it is negotiating the non-timed sections, i.e. the link stages, which take place in Argentina on roads or motorways open to all -- thirty or so officers from the Minister of the Interior ensure that the crossroads are correctly signposted, cones are put in place, instruction leaflets are handed out, basic rules are explained and the key positions are manned. The challenge is to contain the enthusiasm of the crowds that flock to the sides of the roads and tracks used by the race, but also to carry out preventive and educational campaigns.These considerable and original resources were the brainchild of Minister of the Interior Florencio Randazzo and they have born fruit. Andrиs Panero, the field coordinator for the operation underlines how working for the Dakar helps put across security messages: "Our work takes place on the link stages only, opening the way for the race. We broadcast messages by loud-speakers but, more importantly, sending one of our cars out an hour, then half an hour before the competitors arrive helps to keep the spectators alert: they feel like we are thinking about their safety". This presence is constant with officers stationed at the critical points such as the entrance to the town of Huemes, on route 34, which witnessed the passage of the link stage yesterday and which signals the start of a long stretch where there are plenty of articulated trucks and private vehicles. "We are present at places like this to carry out preventive work. This work goes beyond the Dakar, but we take advantage of the spectator's availability due to the presence of the race".The system involving the orange cars of the 'Seguridad vial'(road safety) agency works so well that during the first stage it was Lucas Palermo, head of road management for North West Argentina, who was the first to arrive when Van Ginkel rolled his truck in the middle of the motorway. Combining education and intervention, the operation places the Dakar in the road safety landscape and enables all the required safety messages to be put across. This work is specifically conducted during the rally-raid, but is also performed occasionally during the rest of the year. According to Andrиs Panero, "People are happy to see us because they realise we are here to make sure everything goes smoothly". On each stage in Argentina, these guardian angels of the Dakar and the road open up the way a little while before the first competitor. They are heavily involved in this great sporting movement, to remove the risks as much as possible.