Dakar : KTM - Leg One
Five o' clock in the morning. An ACDC Cover is the wake-up bell for Cyril Despres. The last year winner is approaching his first day of race. His number one reflects the honour and the duty of the champion of the Dakar. All the Team KTM Gauloises is
working around the French champion. Former enduro champion Eric Bernard is absolutely concentrated on his new job. He is now the Manager of the “Blue” Team, and his responsibility is very big. Everything is ready. The pressure is going up.
Yesterday night only one operation was missing: the great “Briefing”. Etienne Lavigne, the Director of the Dakarwas the only man on the stage of the immense auditorium of the Cultural Center of Belem. The Atlantic oceanwas behind his shoulders. In front of Lavigne 775 peoples. The 775 competitors of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2006. Awarm welcome from the Man, then the instructions from the General. “You have to take care, this Dakarwill be different. We wanted to refocus the most famous all terrain race. We changed the rules of the game, because we want to recover certain human qualities of the race. So take care, and enjoy it”. Then the details of the first two European days of the major African event.
6:15 AM. The first motorcycle leaves the “parc fermé”. This is the closed space where the bikes have been recovered in during the night. The 2006 Dakarhas started. Each pilot has to face a transfer of 186 kilometres, then the 83 kilometresof the first special stage of this Dakar. And at last the final section of 100 kms unto Portimao, South of Portugal. One more Year is closing, a new Dakaris open.
In this first special test there is no navigation. The stage trace looks like a colossal enduro test, arrows indicating the right way. The pilots have to pay attention to the road book during the connection sections, but they can forget it, and also the monitor of the GPS, all over the special test. The ground is sandy, somewhere wet because a couple of shower. The main problem is to have chosen the right tyre. Most of the front riders have switched from MichelinDesertto Michelin Baja. Grip reasons.
Departure is scripted in the inverse order of number plates, so Cyril Despres leaves after all others. 50 minutes and 10 seconds afterwards his first finish line is crossed. A couple of seconds and a time keeper reveals the “watch” decision: Despres has won the first special stage. KTM also. A Portuguese is second, his name is Ruben Faria. Some rumours about a special prize of 30.000 euros if a Portuguese wins a special stage in Portugal. Maybe tomorrow.
People have to wait for only seven seconds. An orange bike of the Team Repsol KTM is at the finish. His rider is Marc Coma. “Strange day, this first day. I was concentrated on the track, that was so slippery because of the rain. At a moment I believed the rear tyre was punched, so I stopped. I remember an important race in Dubai, two years ago. Same feeling of a problem, but I decided to go on. After ten kilometres the rear axle of the wheel was broken, and my stage ended. This morning I preferred to stop and I checked the wheel. All was ok, so I resumed. I'm a little bit surprised: I stopped, and despite the time lost I pay a delay of only seven seconds. Maybe I am in very good conditions”.
Also Andy “Wild” Caldecott, the Australian that took the place of Duran in the Repsol KTM Team “B”, was surprised: “My form is not 100%. I stopped training during the last six months, because of my job, and I decided not to attend to this Dakar. When Arcarons called me, I was very happy, but also a little bit concerned: the 9th position is a good start. Of course, the race will be very long, but the beginning is not so bad”.
Others Factory Riders Different have chosen different strategies. Most of them preferred to take it easy. The two Americans, Andy Grider and Chris Blais, finished in 23th and 31th position, and Gio' Sala was only 42th.
The debutant in the Repsol KTM Team “B”, Jordi Viladoms, was 20th: “I am a little confused. I believed I was very calm, but this morning, when I took my motorcycle in order to leave, I noticed my road book was still in my hotel room. In a second I switched to very nervous. Then during the stage I retrieved my self control, and finally I enjoyed this first special test”.
First day has passed. Tomorrow the 28th Dakarwill change Year and Country. The second stage will start in Portugalbut the finish line will be placed in Spain, near Malaga. A stage of 567 kilometreswith a special test of 387. Nothing to say: the beginning of this Dakaris not a joke.
Have a Very Happy New Year!
Pres Release KTM