Dakar : News from Scrutineering
Having left Barcelona yesterday, José Maria Garrofé, who is taking part in the Dakar for the second time, has already had quite an adventure to be present this morning at 8:00 AM for the technical scrutineering and administrative checks, and
to be the first racer to start the round of checks. "Near Saragossa, we had to stop every 5km to scrape the ice off the windscreen. At 9:00 PM, when we got to Lisbon, it was raining so hard that water was pooring into the car!" The driver of Bowler number 460 is now impatient to get to Africa and to finally enjoy a weather his machine was built for.
The former international and Biarritz rugby player is rediscovering his sensations as the start from Lisbon nears. “It is like before a big game: everyone talks to me about the Dakar. Like with rugby, you can't have a coffee in Biarritz without having to answer questions.”
A rookie on the world's most important rally raid, the member of the “Team 100% Sud Ouest” isn't hiding his excitation or his apprehension even though the eight days spent in Morocco reassured his capabilities to adapt. “They were happy with me and so was I because I was setting off into the unknown. Philippe Bernat-Salles will arrive in Lisbon Wednesday morning on a flight from Bilbao and pass through the verifications afternoon. “Then it will be mental”, he says. Just like with rugby.
Place your Bets, Please…
Just a few days before the start of the 30th edition of the Dakar, bets are open on most of the on-line gambling and betting websites. In the car category, one of the best known sites offers a list of 16 pilots to bet on.
With odds of 2.90 to 1, Giniel De Villiers - even if he never won the rally raid - is the favorite, just ahead of his Volkswagen team mate Carlos Sainz (at 3.20).
Stéphane Peterhansel, title holder and nine-times winner of the race is third in the odds with a smaller 3.60 to 1. But more daring gamblers will bet on pilots like Yvan Muller (at 251 to 1) or Germany's Dieter Depping (Volkswagen) who gets top odds with 300 to 1. More surprising however is the presence of Austria's Raphael Sperrer (300 to 1)…
People can also bet on possible duels based on the overall rankings at Lake Rose, for instance between teammates of the BMW X-Raid team, Nasser Al Attiyah (at 1.55) who is favorite over his team mate Bruno Saby (at 2.30).
Marcel Pilet, the Listening Ear of the Bikers
He calls himself the Mac Gyver of the checks; he's in charge of contacts with the bikers registered in the race. During the scrutineering, Marcel Pilet has a lot to do: first, marking in the vehicles arriving; then pointing competitors in the right direction, as they can be a bit lost in the large site of Belem and finally comforting and guiding the participants who are often "pretty stressed out" before going through the different stages of homologation.
"It's tough; they've been preparing the raid for several months and they are never certain they will get the go-ahead", he says. Because "not everyone is a natural-born mechanic" and some have no assistance at all. So if need be, Marcel Pilet, who has 11 Dakars on his track record as a former competitor (from 1983 to 1996), is always ready to give away the odd 'trick' or explanation of the regulation, which is sometimes misunderstood. He is - basically - a breath of kindness before going through the tough scrutiny of the stewards.
Safety: 10 minutes to Review the Basics
When the wind blows in the desert and brings the dust back towards the right, where does a biker need to ride when he has been warned that a car is about to pass him? Easy! Well... not really if you listen to the people in charge of the Sentinel system, who have established their HQ in the administrative checks tent. Some of the competitors still don't have the right reflexes.
The "worst in class" are identified upon arrival: car pilots are asked five test questions and bikers three. One mistake in their answers and the competitors are asked to take a 10-minute training course that reminds them, on the one hand, of how they should use the Sentinel system, an integrated radio system that allows for interaction between all vehicles in the race and, on the other, what to do when passed, or in case of an accident. For Marc Lajara, in charge of the training, "the equipment is now up and running after four years of being used on the Dakar. We are convinced that our main focus should now be on people's behaviors." In the next few months, this training course could even 'evolve' and be done trough the web.
Press Release A.S.O.