HIMOINSA Team antes de salir

Last step towards the Dakar

HIMOINSA Team sign up to Dakar 2015

The expedition led by Miguel Puertas (58), Rosa Romero (96) and Antonio Gimeno (97) says good-bye to Spain and starts the countdown to the starting line in Buenos Aires.

On 11 November the Spanish multinational HIMOINSA presented its ambitious project to include a team from Murcia three bikers strong in Dakar. Little more than one and a half months later, it is now only hours until the three bikers – Granada-born Miguel Puertas (58), Catalan-born Rosa Romero (96) and Madrid-born Antonio Gimeno (97) take on Dakar – the toughest rally in the world.

Yesterday around half past midnight the Spanish team left Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport for Buenos Aires, which was chosen by the Dakar organisation as the start and finish line for the 37th Dakar race. They are due to touch down on South American soil around 1 p.m. Spanish time (9 a.m. in Buenos Aires). On the first day, the second leader, mechanics and team will collect the vehicles, the three motorbikes and the truck from customs at the Euroamerica terminal. The vehicles will have arrived from Le Havre, France. Once they have all of the equipment, it is moved to the huge Tecnópolis exhibition centre where it is stored before undergoing administrative and technical checks on the afternoon of 2 January 2015. “NYE is still a special day so you celebrate it but in reality your mind is focused on the race and you go to bed early. These are the days leading up to the event and there is a lot of work to be done – collecting the equipment you sent over and deciding what you will take with you during the race and what you will leave behind, checking the bike, tests, etc. Until the time comes to get on the bike and compete it is almost impossible to relax. This year, Dakar will have particular relevance as one of my good friends is battling a serious illness. I would like to dedicate this race and each kilometre covered during Dakar to her and her battle against this illness. Comments by biker Rosa Romero before the flight.

But this year is also a special one for Miguel Puertas. One, because he has been given the new role of Sports Director which now exists in the team; and second, because he is on the verge of making history because if he makes it to the end of this Dakar it will be his 10th in a row. I don’t feel under pressure to make it my 10th. I am happy with what I have already achieved. If I have learned anything from Dakar, it’s that you cannot race under pressure because at the end of the day, the race is extremely long and you cannot cope with that pressure for all those days. You need to relax and enjoy the race. To me it’s a prize – not a challenge that must be completed. Being here after 10 years is the icing on the cake in this journey.” Statement from the project’s alma mater and the biker backed by HIMOINSA during each of his Dakar events. In terms of the race itself Puertas has completed all of the South American events, where the ASO have gradually made the race tougher over the years. That said, Miguel seems to know exactly where to mark the map in red.  In the first week the stretch between San Juan and Chilecito before the Andes crossing is going to be very difficult. The two marathon stages in the second week mean it is going to be a very long week. The five-day climb and descent of Uyuni is going to be a very hard load to bear. The rest will be relatively easy even if it is really long.

After the checks, the bikers will spend 3 January meeting thousands of fans due to line the streets surrounding the Government House (la Casa Rosada) and to fill the Plaza de Mayo.  The Dakar competitors will be introduced in order of category from highest to lowest entry number on the starting podium. They hope to be back here by 17 January, which will earn them the finisher medal or qualify them in one of the categories of the toughest race on earth.   “It’s a really special moment. I have only been lucky enough to take part in Dakar once but I was able to finish the race and experience these two unique feelings – the feeling when they wave you off and the feeling when they welcome you back as a victorious hero. This year I am really focused on all three of us completing the race. I don’t know what could happen next year but I want to see each of my team mates by my side on 17 January so that I can see the Rosa’s excited face when she finishes her first ever Dakar race and Miguel’s face when he completes his 10th Dakar.  For me, the biggest triumph will be seeing their faces.  Antonio thinks that the KTM EXC 450 motorbike is perfectly matched to enabling the three of us to arrive at the finishing podium because “it is very light which will mean that we will have a greater advantage when we face the more technical stages. It’s one thing to take on Dakar with the aim of finishing it and it’s another to actually complete it. Since our objective is the latter our technical equipment could not be better.

After the start date, the bikers will go and rest before the two weeks of competition, including two marathon stages and a rest day and the thousands of stories that will be written during each kilometre. We hope that this year all three of them can make it to the end with that same non-stop energy they are famous for.

Antonio y Rosa aeropuerto

Antonio y Rosa at the airport.

Antonio Gimeno

youth and talent to the dakarian race

Antonio Gimeno: “The Dakar Rally is not a football game of two halves”.

In 2011 he finished a commendable 46th. He is now returning as part of the HIMOINSA Team.

Antonio is the youngest member of the team and got his first motorbike aged eight. He works in the sales department of a motorcycle company, and is surrounded by bikes 24 hours a day. Antonio gradually immersed himself in racing, inspired by his family and friends who are all motorcycle fans. Gimeno started racing in motocross in 1995, moving on shortly after to enduro and then rallies. He fulfilled one of his dreams in 2011 (which his father had been unable to due to a lack of sponsorship), and took party in the hardest rally raid in the world. “It’s still just a competition but it’s one of the most popular and toughest events in the world, because of the number of days, the conditions etc. etc.. There are physical, personal and human factors at play. You become a better person, it’s an adventure. It’s not a football game of two halves, here you start early in the morning and might have a stage of anywhere between four hundred and eight hundred kilometres. There are different terrains, problems, sometimes it rains sometimes it doesn’t, it can get really hot, you can climb from sea level to 5,000 metres in just a short space of time, your bike can break down, you have to stop to help a team mate… It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in the Dakar”.

The motard is a regular in the various races all year round and is taking part this year along with Rosa Romero. “Being part of the HIMOINSA Team is wonderful, and being on the same team as Rosa Romero and Miguel Puertas is a privilege. It’s so inspiring to be part of such a great team, and I’m going to push hard to make sure all three of us finish. It’s hard to say what you’re feeling when you’re racing as you’re so involved. When you’re racing you don’t admire the scenario as you’re focused on navigating, on the dangers, the bike etc… Your hobby becomes a job”.

This 36-year old father of two from Madrid will be one of the linchpins of the team, making sure they work together to improve the chances of all three drivers finishing the race.

Rosa Romero

Spirit champion for dakar

Rosa Romero: “I’ve been trapped overnight at 4,000 meters with no food and water in the Dakar Rally”.

Nani Roma’s wife will be taking part in the Dakar Rally for the fourth time and this year hopes to finish as part of the HIMOINSA Team.

Rosa is a mother of three and a telecoms technical engineer, although her real passion is motor sport. Rosa and her husband Nani Roma (two times Dakar winner) are one of the most loved and respected couples in sport. By day Rosa works for Naniracing and the Nani Roma Foundation. “It’s complicated. Nani’s a pro and I have to make sure I race separately to him and don’t affect his chances. It’s always been more of a disadvantage than an advantage, although he’s always tried to make sure I can take part in the Rally. This year he’s very happy that I’ve been able to join the HIMOINSA Team”.

She took part in her first Dakar in 2006 having idolised the Dakar riders since she was a young girl. But despite all her hard work, she has not made it to the finish line after three attempts. Dakar 2015 presents a new challenge for Rosa as a member of the new Spanish team, HIMOINSA Team. Her aim is clear: to finish on the podium and become the third Spanish woman in history to do so. “Dakar is a race where experience from previous years counts. Normally you think luck is the determining factor, but when you have to pullout, you analyse it coldly and you can see clearly where you’ve failed. I know what I needed to change for this edition and what I wanted to do differently. Just being part of the HIMOINSA Team, and especially being alongside Miguel Puertas and Antonio Gimeno, means I’ve achieved my aim”.

For the majority of amateur drivers just being able to raise enough resources to take part is a success. Rosa also has to balance her family, her job and her passion. “I’m an amateur, I have three children and I also work. I try to combine my hobby, training and being a mother, that’s the most complicated part. This means I have to be well-organised so I have time to be with my kids who are at that age where they really need their parents. I also try to find time for myself, if I don’t train then there’s no race”.

In the previous three editions Rosa also faced some extreme survival challenges. “The hardest part is having to abandon the race. So much happened to me last year, such as being trapped overnight at 4,000 meters with no food or water. That was really tough”.

Miguel Puertas y las medallas del Dakar.

Go for the 10th Dakar in a row

Miguel Puertas: “I want to complete 100,000km in one of the world’s toughest races”.

The Granada-born racer has completed the Dakar nine straight times and is on the cusp of unique feat.

Lieutenant colonel in the Spanish Air Force, Miguel Puertas was born in Granada, but moved to Murcia in 1987 to join the Spanish Air Force Academy, where he started his military career. He completed his training in the Spanish Air Force Academy as a lieutenant in 1992. Miguel is a combat fighter pilot with over 3,500 hours flying time in jets and experience at the controls of C-101, F5 and F18 aircraft. He was a member of the Patrulla Aguila, the Spanish Air Force’s aerobatic display team, for 10 years. “Aircraft require a different type of piloting. You are not stretched to the limit quite as much as in the Dakar. Accidents are normally fatal, so you get used to keeping everything under control. I’ve been able to apply my military experience to the Dakar. I can experience the risks and limits more closely”.

Puertas abandoned his first Dakar, in 2004, but has finished every one he has faced since then. Respected and appreciated by his fellow riders as one of the most reliable racers, he is about to make history with this year’s edition, etching his name and that of the HIMOINSA Team in gold letters for completing his 10th consecutive Dakar. “I have completed the Dakar nine times. To do this, you need luck at times when you are on the verge of quitting. There have been times when I’ve had both feet out of the raid, but have been able to go on and to finish. I have 90,000km under my belt and this year will make it to 100,000km in one of the world’s toughest races. This is a mark of stamina and perseverance that I want to reach. I want to give back to HIMOINSA what it has given me in all this time”.

The Granada rider has experienced moments that will long be remembered by Dakar professionals and fans alike. In the 2013 edition, Puertas had to tow his team partner at the time, Laia Sanz, for 320km, helping her to complete the stage and go on to win in the women’s category. This was not the first time Puertas showed his solidarity; a year earlier he towed Argentine racer Pablo Busin for 110 km. Despite these gestures, Miguel has also seen the ugliest part of the race. Last year, he was run over, literally, by French driver Roman Chabot’s buggy. The reckless driving of the Red Bull racer, who did not stop to help Puertas, could have ended his life. Puertas delivered another historical performance, completing his ninth consecutive Dakar with two torn ligaments in his shoulder.