Pal Anders Ullevaalseter (18) se impuso en el rally de Merzouga

Merzouga Rally

Pal Anders Ullevaalseter comes in first, and Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno 11th and 12th, respectively.

This is as good as it gets folks. The final pre-Dakar races are now over. Riders and drivers have had their last chance to test the final touches made to their motorcycles and to gauge their feelings before the main event, the Dakar, where there is no margin for error. The latest was the 1180 km Merzouga Rally, comprising a prologue and five stages, one of which was a marathon stage. Riders Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno finished their last individual races with 11th and 12th place finishes, respectively, in the Pro category in a rally marked by the excellent atmosphere at all times in the common areas of the Xaluca hotel in Erfoud, Morocco.

Rosa Romero: “I’m extremely delighted with the Rally. And not just the result, which was excellent, but the overall performance. When you pursue an individual goal, everything is easier and it’s all up to you. When you are part of a team, you have to learn things, get to know people, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and adapt to each situation. I think we made progress each day in this respect and we gained a lot of confidence. And this is crucial for the Dakar. The bike responded perfectly and the race helped us check where we can make a few minor improvements, but nothing major. We just need to tweak the base, which is perfect. Mechanically, the bike is simple. It is light and very easy to drive.”

Antonio Gimeno: “The 5th edition of the Merzouga Rally was awesome. A huge success. It is a tough race in terms of driving and navigating, not to mention physical endurance. The stages were long and you ride a lot off-road, in camel grass, in areas of fesh fesh, sand and dunes… lots of dunes!! The motorcycle behaved perfectly. It is light, high performance, and we adapted smoothly. The first test for both motorcycle and the rider was perfect. A 10! We shared six stages racing, improving every day, learning each other’s weaknesses and skills. I think we made a lot of progress and have the confidence necessary to take on Dakar 2015. I think that the final result can be seen in the classification. By not making mistakes, navigating correctly and at a safe rhythm, we were able to 11th and 12th overall”.

Clasificaciones completas.

Clasificación Merzouga Rally

Fuente y fotografía: Merzouga Rally

 

 

 

Medalla de Finisher

The Dakar´s medals

The Dakar finisher’s medal is the most coveted prize

 

When a sporting event is considered one of the most difficult to finish, similar to climbing Mount Everest or crossing the North or South pole, just making it to the last day, crossing the finishing line and standing on the podium become all the more important.

For instance, out of the 196 motorcycles that took part in the 2014 edition of Dakar, only 78 made it to the finishing line in Valparaíso, Chile. That’s just 38.77% of the participants. This illustrates just how hard this event is, with riders risking their lives at all times. For the 2015 edition, competitors in the motorbike/quad category will once again be faced with a nearly 9000 km journey over 14 days and 13 stages, including a marathon stage and a rest day. The rally ends in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 17 January.

In what is the 37th edition of Dakar, our riders can expand their list of achievements considerably, setting new records. Granada-born Miguel Puertas, who has completed the Dakar nine times, is on the cusp of winning his 10th straight medal and remaining one of the most decorated pilots in Dakar history. Puertas has reached the end more than any other Spanish rider ever and ranks among the top five in the world. Meanwhile, Rosa Romero, from Catalonia, has raced the Dakar three times and had to abandon on all three occasions. She is anxiously awaiting the 2015 edition since belonging to a team enhances here chances of finishing greatly. This would place her among the top three all-time Spanish female riders. Antonio Gimeno’s first and only Dakar was in 2011, when he finished 46th. The Madrid rider wants to help his team mates reach these heights while keeping up his record of finishing each edition in which he has participated.

Participantes de este Año

Le Dakar, an indoor sport.

Before moving on to the real thing, a group of Dakar competitors have made the most of the theoretical explanations that were both detailed and tangible. The training course organized primarily for the newcomers is among the useful steps for a good preparation.

The Dakar drivers and crews are preparing to set off on a 9,000km journey on the roads and tracks of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. All already have solid experience, most often on adventures in the heart of the desert and have the skills to find a solution for most mechanical situations. Nevertheless, for the first-timers on the event, the training courses held first in Paris then in Buenos Aires on November 15, are a very useful pre-event opportunity. Last Friday, 28 competitors made the trip to hear precious advice from Mathieu Baumel, who just recently won the Morocco Rally as Nasser Al-Attiyah’s co-driver. Among those present, Marc Meneghin, co-driver to Jean-Jacques Ratet in the rapid assistance vehicle for the lead Peugeot already at the end of the day recognized the expected benefits of this meeting: “To benefit from advice from experienced competitors is very much appreciated. They shared their know-how and offered a lot of advice that we now can’t wait to use there. I have taken part in other rallies but the Dakar is a whole lot different.”

The coexistence between minutely orchestrated teams and amateurs who choose to do it all themselves, especially for service, is a specificity of the Dakar. David Casteau knew better than anyone else the full range of problems encountered by the pure amateurs, before becoming a contender in the general classification. The Nice native, invited to share his experience, was particularly prolific with tips to avoid getting lost in the unusual daily life of the Dakar bivouac. This abundance of information will be useful to Laurent Moulin, who is entered without any assistance. “I have already participated in two rallies and I am about to ride in my first Dakar. I remember everything that I experienced previously but this is 100 times bigger here. You really get a sense that the steamroller is up and running”. For Laurent as for the others, there are some 10 weeks left to reach the level of the event.

Information source and photo: www.dakar.com

 

Miguel Puertas arena

Dakar 2015: Marathon-Style

In Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, the drivers and the teams of the Dakar 2015 will discover (or rediscover) the finesse, as well as the harshness of off-road races in the purest sense. Cars and trucks which had not taken part in marathon stages since 2005 will be entitled to do so this year. And a few new features have been added, such as the alternate rest days, changing the overall pace of the rally.

Marathon stages for everyone

For the past three years, the Dakar’s route has featured marathon stages for competitors in the motorcycle and quad categories, in line with the founding principles of off-road races. Competitors cannot call upon their support teams for two race days. Isolated in a bivouac to which only drivers have access, they themselves have to carry out any repairs and maintenance work which may be required before setting off the next day. This constraint obviously means they need to manage their equipment, thus introducing additional strategic considerations.

The marathon stages also have a unique friendly atmosphere and competitors retain fond memories of participating in them. In the 2015 edition, the principle of these marathon stages will be extended to all categories. The car crews will therefore also have a specific bivouac, as will the trucks.

Separate routes… and even alternate rest days!

The routes marked out in recent years have confirmed the advantages of separating the routes taken by the various categories involved. In the 2014 edition, this concerned five stages and nearly 40% of the total distance covered, resulting in advantages in terms of driver comfort, safety, the variety of terrains and thus increased the interest of the race in sporting terms.

The Dakar 2015’s route has been created with these objectives in mind, taking the idea even further by organising separate rest days for the different categories. The town of Iquique, which this year features at the northern tip of the route, will thus play host to the rally bivouac for three days, at the foot of its famous descent.