Fast forward over the Paso de Jama pass
Argentina and Chile, the two host countries of the Dakar, are separated by a natural frontier without equal: the Andes Mountain range. Today, the race will be crossing the mountains via the Paso de Jama pass, situated at an altitude of 4800 metres. Around 800 vehicles will be taking route 52 to get there, which requires anticipation in all domains in order to enable good traffic conditions. For example, exceptionally, the assistance vehicles will be obliged to wait for the departure of all the competitors still in the race before leaving San Salvador de Jujuy. The issue of altitude and the possible problems it can provoke in certain people has also been taken into consideration: "Throughout the ascent, 30 vehicles will be positioned in order to provide aid to those who feel the negative effects of the altitude," explains Frederic Lequien, Assistant Director of the Dakar. "Each car is equipped with oxygen tanks. Today, 10 of our medical cars will be specifically dedicated to this mission, in addition to the resources deployed by the Argentinean and Chilean authorities". The duration of this "trip" at such an altitude is one of the decisive factors in the occurrence of ailments. To keep it as short as possible, an administrative innovation has been set up for the Dakar. A border post has been set up at the bivouac in Jujuy, manned by approximately 60 agents of the two countries' customs services. As a result, the 2,500 people accredited to take part in and follow the rally must visit this post with their passports and visas in order, in order to avoid queues at the high altitude border.
Halpern at last
At the bivouac in San Salvador de Jujuy, the sun is beating down. But under the canvas of Sebastian Halpern's camp, a wind of change is blowing: 1st in the general standings for the first time, which is a real event for this discrete quad rider who already laid the foundations of this performance last year with two victories to celebrate is first participation in the event. "This time, although there's no stage victory, this 1st place is pleasing". Sebastian Halpern is enjoying his moment of consecration after a long stage on which he says he, "left his arms, what with all the bends that needed negotiating". His friend Orlando Terranova arrives to tell him about his misfortunes: a flat tyre, a wasp sting and a seventh place that he is not happy with, before asking, "How about you?" "First in the general standings," replies the quad rider from Mendoza. "Superb!" comes the reply from Terranova. Halpern is not getting carried away and finishes the discussion with a laconic, "only 10 stages left now..."
Listening to them, it is impossible to tell who is the most determined or enthusiastic of the two. Whether it is Pedro, the son, or Joaquim, the father, the De Uriarte are having a wonderful start to the Dakar. "I'm loving it," says the father, who is participating in his first Dakar. Each of them is driving a Predator buggy, which they have shipped from the USA and prepared at home in Puebla. The only two representatives of Mexico or living the Dakar experience to the full: "Isn't this just wonderful?" asks Joaquim, showing the lights and perpetual movement of the bivouac at San Miguel de Tucuman. "It's probably because I would watch the Dakar on Fox with my son on my knee years ago that he has become so infected by this passion," explains the elder De Uriarte. The son, 29 years old, lived up to this shared enthusiasm by finishing, in 24th position, his first Dakar, which he rode on a bike in 2005: "We weren't using the Iritrack yet, but it was the first time the Sentinel was used," explains the number 368, who since then has devoted himself to fatherhood and his business.