Salvatierra, the easy-going Bolivian
A chicken with potatoes and some soup, looking out to see: when Juan Carlos Salvatierra finished the special at Antofagasta, he took a moment's calm to relax before returning to the hustle and bustle of the bivouac. The first and only Bolivian to tackle the Dakar is in the process of accomplishing a remarkable feat: he is 53rd in the general standings, and is creating a storm in the media back home. "On the rest day, all the Medias from my country came to see me. Interviews, videos, photos... it was unending. Football is the major sport in Bolivia, but now everyone is enthusiastic about motorsport too". The young driver from Santa Cruz, the economic capital of the country, is obviously making a great contribution to this, because it was not for nothing that hundreds of people made the 20 hour bus journey to come and cheer him on at the finishing line in Arica. Juan Carlos is almost worried about what will happen afterwards: "Perhaps I'll stay in Buenos Aires a few days to let things calm down a little". That will be difficult, given that he managed to finish 22nd in a stage as difficult as Iquique -- Arica and even more difficult since he has already been motocross champion of his country 8 times. Bu Juan Carlos Salvatierra prefers to cast his thoughts elsewhere: to the title of Bolivian 4x4 champion which he lost out on merely by a few seconds. In the mean-time he is fine-tuning, with a great degree of success, his apprenticeship on the Dakar, but back home in Bolivia, they are already aware of his excellent know-how.
Just where has Tomas Maffei sprung from?
He is the new leader in the quad category since Antofagasta, but what he wants to talk about most is navigation error: "I wasn't confident enough in myself. The policeman showed me one track and my road-book was showing me another. I should've trusted myself, more than anything". Navigation could not have been his speciality before taking part in the Dakar, since the only race he had taken part in was the Argentine version of the Touquet endurance race, an event that lasts just 1 hour. For the rest, Tomas Maffei privileged physical training to prepare for a Dakar which he discovered last year at the bivouac in Santiago de Chile, thanks to an invite from Scania. "After that, I bought a Raptor and saw that I managed to ride it well. So, I decided to enrol for the Dakar, but I didn't think that I would make the final cut. When I received the letter I was surprised, but I started preparing from then onwards". By finishing 5th on the first stage, picking up other respectable finishes, but more importantly 2 stage victories, until the 1st place in the general standings achieved in Antofagasta, he has generated plenty of media interest in Argentina, where the question on everyone's lips is "Just where has Tomas Maffie come from?" More used to the Patronellis, the Argentines have discovered a rather shy rider who himself is surprised by his success: "It's incredible, the newspapers are calling me, on Facebook it's going wild. When I enter my name into Google, there are 2 search results appear..." At 26 years old and manager of a transport company alongside his father, Tomas is amazed by everything: "Being 3'03" away from Alejandro Patronelli in the general standings after 5,000 kilometres is magnificent. Being out in front is even more so".
A desert "belle" called Elodie
Bivouac after bivouac the silhouette of Elodie Gossuin is now part of the Dakar landscape; her interventions on the France Television channels show a woman gaining confidence and relevance. Ten years after having been elected Miss France, the lady, who has been driving on the tracks of the Andros Trophy for the last six years, is just catchng the Dakar virus. "What I am discovering here is fantastic, says Elodie as she starts talking about her first week experience. The scenery is extraordinary; the public is passionate about the race and the contacts between the people are so authentic... I did not expect all of that". In charge of shedding a female light on "a world of dudes that is after all not a world of male chauvinists", the new freelance journalist of the sports TV department has already experienced some great rally moments. "For the big dip of the Iquique sand dune, we were riding with Luc Alphand; it was breathtaking. But beyond that, I am also learning a lot professionally. Taking part in the making of one-hour long live shows, in addition to covering 11,000 km in full improvisation because of how the raid is designed, is an incredible opportunity," analyzes the TF6 and France 4 anchorwoman. Touched by the great challenge that is the Dakar, Elodie sees herself coming back next year, maybe behind the wheel of a car: "I am sure that at the end of these two weeks, I will do all I can to find a way to be here next year, hopefully in the race. But I know my limits; and I will certainly not ride a bike!"
Despres-Cali, a friendly battle... with words
10:55 AM, Cyril Despres is first to cross the finish line of the Dakar's special stage 7; the title holder says: "In a climb I immediately thought about Califano; I knew he would be in for a rough time." 15:30, Christian Califano also finishes the special stage. People tell him what his old friend said. "What? He said that? Wait till the bivouac. Cyril will be eating dust", says the former international rugby player with a laugh. He had passed the stage's difficulties easily or close enough.