Le Havre is the great festival where competitors get together, exchange impressions and get up-to-date on one another…
645 vehicles passed the mandatory technical and administrative checks at Le Havre Port on Thursday and Friday and were cleared to set sail for Argentina, where the rally will get under way on January 4.
If the Dakar is hallowed ground for all rally raid drivers and riders, then Le Havre is the great festival where competitors get together, exchange impressions and get up-to-date on one another… Ever since 2009, the loading of vehicles at the second biggest port in France has become a rite of passage and, in a way, the first stage of the rally.
The crowds relish the unique opportunity to see the vehicles and competitors from up close, while the drivers and riders ease into the racing mindset. To get here, some of them covered distances worthy of any of the 13 stages of the Dakar, with competitors flocking from the UK, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Russia and even the US.
The hodgepodge of vehicles and the crowds which turned out in force to gaze at them created a pleasant South American atmosphere. Once the safety devices (Iritrack and GPS) were set up, stickers were in place and customs formalities were out of the way, they all turned their minds to Buenos Aires, home to the start of the 2015 Dakar, full of impatience and excitement of sorts.
Le Havre Port's Ro-Ro terminal became the world's biggest motor sports logistics platform for 48 hours. 140 people made sure everything went smoothly during these two days of scrutineering on behalf of the rally organisers. They handled a 4.6 km line of vehicles, ready to be loaded onto the Grande Amburgo next weekend. Grimaldi's 200-metre cargo ship and its load of 645 race, assistance, press and organisation vehicles will then embark on a 21-day transatlantic crossing to Euro America Port, near Buenos Aires. The competitors will be there to retrieve them on December 31, a mere four days before the start. The real one!