Claudio Rodriguez: young, Chilean and talented
It is well-known that you don't have to be old to be talented. Claudio Rodriguez, the last number in the bike category is now the youngest rider in the 2010 Dakar since the withdrawal of Rodrigo Caballero; he finished -
almost without difficulties - 31st in the Fiambala -- Copiapo stage. Boosted by the arrival on home turf he also had the happy opportunity of crossing the finish line under the cheers of a crowd shouting his nickname: "Burrito! Burrito!" Well-known and certainly appreciated Claudio is now getting the fruit of the show he put on on the start poduim in Buenos Aires. First biker to parade he had all the time he needed to unroll the Chilean flag and sing the national anthem. "I think the images of that were shown in a constant loop in Chile but I have no idea where my nickname comes from", admits the Vallenar rider with a giant smile. Vallenar is located just 150km south of Copiapo. "This is where I live. This is where I learned how to bike... in the desert around us." He used this advantage for his very first Dakar: "I see that Europeans cannot adjust to the mix of sand and rocks we have here." Courageous and content to be racing home, Claudio is also using the good advice from his friends "Chaleco" and De Gavardo and entrusts his Husqvarna everynight to his dad the mechanic. This would be an ideal picture if it wasn't for two things: his team, first. Tamarugal confiscated his cell phone to avoir long calls from his "polola" Maria. And then his shyness. "I don't even dare speak to Coma, Despres or Peterhansel. They are my idols so eating next to them at the bivouac is already a lot."
Saved by a horse...
Looking at Cristina Meier walking towards the Fiambala bivouac around noon, many might have thought that the tall German lady had drawn a line on her 2010 Dakar. Well... not at all! She was just there to get assistance. One of the few women enrolled in the bike category had started the day's stage normally and was doing rather well until she stalled after about 50 km. Impossible to restart her 450cc Yamaha. The special stage's route being a loop around Fiambala, Meier realized she was only 2km from promised land, i.e. the bivouac and her assistance truck. All she had to do was to get there. "I came back... on horseback", she says in a laughter heading towards her assistance. "Some Argentineans helped me restart the bike for a long time and eventually offered me this 'ride' to get back to the bivouac." Cristina then returned to the trail flanked with help to repair and get back in the race. At 7:16PM the German arrived back at the Fiambala bivouac on the saddle... of her very own Yamaha this time!
A taxi to Copiapo
Patrice Carillon has done many many miles during the stage that took the contenders to Copiapo. Everything was going relatively well up to km 50, where a damned boulder through the rider and his bike to the ground. The result was a leak in the fuel tank and a seriously damaged wheel that the rider did manage to fix to keep going. The rider managed to get to CP2 as well as was humanly possible but ran out of gas. "So I took a taxi to Copiapo to get fuel but on the way back it's the taxi that ran out of gas." A real gloom and doom story 'a la Dakar' that did however have a happy ending. "I bumped into Italian tourists who took me in their SUV and drove me to my bike. I owe them a lot." Towards the end of the special stage the main concern of Patrice Carillon was of course to find a gas station not to have the same problem on his way to the bivouac.
T2: the duel is on...
In a race against the clock all eyes are naturally on those finishing first. But in motorsport the difference in technical and financial means is decisive and all the merit goes to those who chose to register in the "production" category i.e. a category where cars have just been slightly modified from their traditional production version. Last year, Nicolas Gibon won the category title. On the Copiapo stage he live up to the title by preceeding his rivals but the five best drivers were in a 23 min bracket on the day's route. And it is still Xavier Foj who is one of the most credible drivers behind the wheels of a Toyota Land Cruiser who owns the category. However, his lead on Gibon is now only a short 10'20''. Of course, the Spaniard knows that his position is unstable but he is keeping his hopes up: "The hard stages should allow me to lay my cards out on the table. On fast sections, I am aware that Gibon is faster. But on sand I stand my chances. I would be really proud to win in this category because it is open to drivers from all backgrounds and this what interests Toyota Spain."