A tough day for the Dessoude crews !!
Quite rightly, Team Dessoude were dreading this stage, which crosses the Atacama desert to reach the shores of the Pacific Ocean. This evening, all the crews had to really fight to reach the finish line. The team leaders, Christian Lavieille and Jean Michel Polato, thoroughly deserved their regained position back up in the top ten !
As Andre Dessoude had predicted, the real Dakar, the Dakar of the problems, the one that exhausts the men and destroys the vehicles, has started. Performance counts, it is true, but this is also an elimination race, where only the strongest will be able to continue !
Andre Dessoude and all his team are on the front line : " Now we're really underway -- the real Dakar has started. When you hear top drivers like Christian, Sainz or Peterhansel say that it was tough, you can easily imagine how the men further back are doing. Our crews had problems today, getting stuck in the sand, which wears out the cars, and also had navigation issues, as it is far from easy to find the waypoints in the dunes. This stage will certainly leave its mark, which we will have to try to reduce during the rest day. This evening, David, Isabelle, Carlos and their teammates are still out on the track, and like many others, are fighting to reach the finish line and to avoid joining the list of retirements, which currently has 60 names on it, but is growing all the time."
As far as the performance is concerned, Christian Lavieille proved to be a worthy leader of the Dessoude crews. This evening, he re-gained his tenth place in the overall classification, after a special stage full of ups, downs and changing emotions : " We started just behind the two Russian trucks that are fighting for the lead of their category -- it was awful... Totally stuck in the dust, impossible to overtake and in permanent danger of not seeing a sand-bank, a ditch or a patch of fesh fesh. We lost a lot of time, to which we have to add a small navigational mistake, We followed the wrong track, also in incredible clouds of sand. The last part of the stage was better. We drove at a sustained pace, but with plenty of margin for safety. We are in the top group, but it will really be necessary to look after the cars, because the number of vehicles fighting for the leading places is reducing every day. For example, four hours after the leader crossed the line, only 32 cars were classified."
If the Dakar is tough for the cars, it is even worse for the motorbikes. Getting up at six, going to bed at eleven at night, but also spending at least eight hours per day standing up on the pegs ! This evening, Pierrick Bonnet has reached the Pacific, and is enjoying the moment while contemplating the distance he has covered : " I am in the bivouac and really pleased to be there with Team Dessoude. Last year, at this stage, I had retired, and was watching the others come down the big dune, which goes down at an angle of 32% to the bivouac. This time, I was a competitor, and it is really satisfying. It makes you forget how tired you are. "
At nine pm local time -- one am in Paris -- Team Dessoude is still waiting for Isabelle, David, Carlos and Frederic, who are still out on the special stage. Night will fall rapidly, which will add to their problems and to their solitude. All the Dessoude technical staff is awake, ready to receive the crews.
Iquique / Arica -- Liaison 265 km -- Special Stage 456 km. The last stage before the rest day, this long leg will once again be very demanding and difficult for the exhausted crews. The day's programme will take them from the Pacific coast to the Peruvian border, over every kind of sand : dunes, guadal, dust... problems guaranteed !
During the official briefing, where many participants were missing, due to still being out on the trail, the race director announce that if today had been difficult, tomorrow would be even worse !