Dakar : The first Spanish driver to step on the podium
At the age of 33 and with an exceptional progression, Roma has become the first Spanish rider to win the Dakar and the first Spanish driver to step on the podium.
In 2004, when he decided to do the change to cars
after winning the Dakar in the motorbike class, he knew that he had a hard job ahead. But he also knew that with eagerness, effort and a competitive car, he would soon be back among the best. He finished sixth in his first participation at the wheel of the Mitsubishi Montero Evolution and faced the 28th edition of the Dakar Rally with a clear aim: to step on the podium in Lake Rose. It hasn't been easy, but he was considered as one of the title aspirants from the very first moment, and he even managed to lead the race after the first African stage. This restless and tireless driver has once again carried out his team work perfectly well, and this work was rewarded with the third place in the 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally.
An analysis of your performance in this rally
"When you look at the stages one by one and see everything we have done, I'd say that the balance is positive. Portugal was quite good, especially considering that those stages seemed more like stages of the WRC, which were not actually favourable for me. I made correct driving, without any mistake and with a similar speed to the drivers in the lead. I've been racing for only two years in a car and I was challenging drivers who had already covered several kilometres. We crossed Morocco at a good pace, always a few minutes after those who were winning the stages. Mauritania is maybe the place were I feel more green yet. I have to improve in the dunes and we made some navigation mistakes that made us loose a lot of minutes.
Consequently the leaders escaped; that's something we have to avoid in the future. Then came Mali and Guinea, I think that we had a good pace there. My job was waiting for Peterhansel to follow him. That's what I did, but given the problems he had, I lost the contact with the leaders. But that's my job and I'm in a team that wants to win the Dakar Rally. I was more than 40 minutes behind Stéphane and it was only logical for me to be behind him. Yesterday's stage with finish in Dakar started very well until we lost our way and a lot of time. In short: I've had a good pace while I was racing, everything went well and I feel capable of progressing, because there are some details, such as the dunes or navigation which I still have to fine tune."
You've been fulfilling all your aims in these three years. Winning in motorbikes in 2004, finishing the next year, and you did it in an excellent sixth place, and this year the podium. Is the aim for next year winning the race in the car class?
"Yes, in fact that would be the culmination of our project. Learning, progressing, looking up and winning in 2007. But it is also true that last year I didn't believe that I would be able to be on the podium the second year. Maybe a stage win and a better result than in the previous year. But I've improved a lot in this last year, I didn't make any mistake and the most important is that I feel that there's still margin to improve. That makes me feel optimistic for next year. Only one can win, but the most important thing is to be in condition to fight for it and I feel capable of going for the win next year."
Which has been the worst moment of this rally?
"Loosing a fellow racer is with no doubt something very hard. I didn't know Andy too well, but he was a dear person, very nice, who was racing in my old team. The death of those two children has also been very sad, but the circumstances of Andy's death are even closer to me. From the sporting point of view there have also been complicated moments, such as when I got stuck in Mauritania and it took me half an hour to get out. It was on kilometre 40 and I still had 600 to go which I covered quite nervously. But things happen to all of us and in the end the final classification is the one when you reach Dakar. I must be happy with what I did."
Apart from the podium, another positive moment.
"Every day, every kilometre was positive because I felt that I was learning things and it felt good, it made me feel excited. You don't always learn, and I had the feeling that I was doing it every day during this rally, I had better feelings in the car. That's the best."
Have you felt panic at any time?
"No. In fact, it has been a rather calm race. Maybe we got a bit nervous, more my co-driver than I, when we got lost yesterday. But I calmed him down, we went back, looked for the right way and found it without further problems; there was no reason to panic. We had a good advantage so we had no pressure as regards time. If it wouldn't have been for that, there might have been reasons. In 2004 I learned to take things differently. It was the most complicated moment, but it was also the moment I felt more clam. Now I understand the race much better and I always try to do things like that, with ease."
The physically most demanding moment.
"All days are tiring and complicated, especially the stages on sand, but I had prepared well. To tell you the truth, my position in the car is not optimal, but I'm feeling better every time."
How do you assess the performance of your team mates, for example Luc Alphand?
"He's done a very good race, very consistent. He's always been there, working, and I think that he deserves the win."
"He had bad luck in Morocco. He came across a hole, overturned and had to retire. It was a shame because he is a driver with a lot of experience, who should have been fighting in the front."
"What should I say about somebody who has won the Dakar Rally eight times. He had a bad day, one of those days where everything goes wrong and he lost the race. He proved that he is the strongest driver, especially in Mauritania, but races are fortunately unpredictable. They are not fair for all, but it's clear that he also deserved the victory."
What do you think about your Team Director Dominique Serieys?
"He is a great manager. Both he and the rest of the team are huge professionals. You have to remember that we, the drivers, would be nothing without the rest of the team. Dominique is the head of all these people, he makes everything work, he motivates people, he makes us all give our best and with excitement. He is the most ambitious of all. He is a key element in the team and makes the whole gearing work."
What is the secret of the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team?
"The ensemble, the team. Everybody working there, from the drivers, engineers, mechanics, truck drivers, to Dominique himself or the people in the factory. It's a big group of people giving their best with a single aim: winning. The rest doesn't matter."
Which memories came back to you when you saw Marc Coma on the highest step of the podium?
"Many beautiful memories. When I saw him at the beach I remembered the day when I arrived. It was really hard for me to make it and it was one of the best feelings I ever had in my life. It's nice to see how somebody who started with you, wins, someone you had taught "what you know" and see a project culminated."
Nani Roma goes on holidays now?
"Yes I'll take some days off and then we'll start thinking about Argentina. We'll be leaving in two months to be back on the track, continue learning and trying to win the rally."
Press Release Repsol Media Service