The support truck loaded with all the necessary materials and the motorbikes are travelling 1,700 km to the French port of Le Havre (France), where they will set sail for Buenos Aires, the last stop before the Dakar.
The 2015 Dakar officially gets underway on 3 January with the start podium, the presentation ceremony, outside the presidential palace “La Casa Rosada” but the teams and riders taking part in the blue ribbon event in the rallying calendar have already travelled thousands of kilometres to reach the starting line. They are currently on their way to the French port of Le Havre, where the motorcycles, materials and support truck will board the MV Grande Amburgo along with another 700 vehicles and set sail for the Euroamerica Port, located very close to Buenos Aires.
The support truck, with Manolo Díaz in charge, along with another vehicle pulling a trailer with the three motorcycles, supervised by team mechanic José Ruíz, left first thing in the morning from HIMOINSA’s main headquarters in Spain. Ahead are two destinations. The nearest, the French port of Le Havre in Haute Normandie, and the furthest, the port of Buenos Aires, where all the equipment required to take part in the Dakar will arrive around two weeks later. In total a trip of more than 12,700km, underlining what the riders have said so often; that the toughest challenge is reaching the starting line for the Dakar, an allusion to the gruelling work that has had to be done throughout the entire year of preparations including fine tuning the bikes, contacts with sponsors, etc. Upon arrival at the French port, the Dakar organisers will carry out various checks to ensure that everything is okay to start the journey to the toughest challenge in the rally raid world. Next, all the material must undergo stringent examination by the French customs authorities and, upon arrival, by their Argentine counterparts.
“The truck is essentially divided into three parts. The first is the workshop with a HYW-13 T5 13 kVa diesel generator powered by Yanmar, the heart of our maintenance set-up, which will provide us with energy, and a large capacity, high-pressure air compressor for removing dust from and cleaning the vehicles. This year we also have a 500-litre water tank with a machine that will enable us to thoroughly clean the vehicles; you can imagine just how dusty and dirty they get. The second section is a storage area, where everything is kept in hermetically sealed boxes to provide protecion from dust and classified as parts for the bikes and the truck. The third section will contain tyres, replacement engines, heavy tools, chassis, etc. Here everything is carefully organised so that we know precisely where to swiftly find whatever we need when required. At the moment the truck is in France, where we’ll encounter temperatures as low as -100, then we’ll be travelling on the boat, where they’ll suffer the effects of the weather, dampness and salt deposits, and to cap things off, it’ll be summertime and 400 when we dock in Buenos Aires,” says Manolo Díaz when we ask him about when we ask him about the materials that the support truck for the Dakar 2015 is transporting.
We tend to make the error of thinking that responsibility for whether or not the rider mounts the podium at the end of the Dakar lies solely with the motard, but if we are familiar with the dynamic and competition rules, we understand that the mechanics, support team and riders share this burden. “The support team can’t help the riders on the timed sections but it can on the link sections. Our mission is to attempt to support them on the link sections. When they enter the special section, we take another route and meet up again at the end of the special section. This is a critical point because they may have suffered a fall, a breakdown… and then they still have a 400-km link section. Like the riders, we are monitored by a navigator who registers everything, we have speed penalties. If we pass through a village where you have to travel at 60km/h and exceed this limit even by one kilometre, the rider is handed a twenty-minute penalty and fined 600 euros. If this happens three times you’re disqualified from the Dakar. You have to keep a very close eye on speed, travelling through the villages.. What often makes matters worse is that when you’re competing you’re going flat out, the terrain… but here you have to get used to the driving that you encounter in cities, villages … and that’s really dangerous. On these South American stages it’s in Argentina where you’re most frightened. People are so passionate about the event in this country and when you’re reaching the ends of the stages and approaching the cities, the crowds are huge and some people stand right beneath the truck to get a photo without you realising. At times it really does get a bit scary,” says Manolo Díaz, who this year will complete his twelfth Dakar, eleven of which have been with Miguel Puertas at his side. And now he is in charge of the entire back-up operation. When we ask him about the most spectacular areas of the Dakar, he replies that “there are two beautiful stretches of the Dakar, namely the Atacama Desert in Chile and the forest zone around Chilecito and Fiambala in Argentina. Both are truly spectacular.”
The next chapter in this adventure will be at the end of December, when the riders, support team and mechanics board a plane to Buenos Aires determined to ensure that the three riders successfully complete the Dakar.