We caught up with the UAE’s Mohammed Balooshi and France’s Johnny Aubert to gauge the mood ahead of their Dakar debuts. The duo shared their opening-night nerves and told us how some familiar faces are helping them keep their fears at bay…
Mohammed Balooshi: I can honestly say that I don’t think any of the racing I have done before is going to help me with what is about to happen. The Dakar Rally is a one-off, there’s nothing like it, so it’s all going to be new and different for me. I’ve done small rallies before that last three or four days but that can’t compare with the Dakar. I’m just hoping I can learn as I go, picking things up on every stage and improving day by day. I’m lucky that my team and my sponsors are not putting any pressure on me to perform miracles. Everyone supports my plan of just getting to that finish line and learning along the way.
Johnny Aubert: Mohammed is lucky he has his experience of short rallies because I don’t even have that! All my experiences have come on the smaller bikes I use in Enduro and Moto-X competitions. I’ve been talking to people with lots of Dakar experience and they have all told me that I should use my first time to start the steep learning curve. I hope this will not be my last Dakar so I want to learn some things I can use when I come back again. My goal is to arrive at the finish line in Peru, that’s as much as I can hope for at the moment. I have not even done too much specific training for the Dakar because after this I have a full season of Enduro races to come. I’m excited to race the Dakar but my primary focus remains the World Enduro Championships. If I put everything into the Dakar I would be burnt out by the time the Enduro season starts. I just want to prove to myself I can finish the Dakar, after that I can start to think about putting more focus on the race in the future.
MB: Hearing a guy like Johnny say that he is here just to learn is music to my ears. Johnny is a World Enduro Champion so if he is only thinking about finishing the Dakar and nothing more, I should be very happy to do the same! This is something I’m learning to enjoy about the Dakar, the mix of people you have around. It’s great to get the chance to spend time with guys like Cyril (Despres) and Marc (Coma). They really know this race better than anyone, so getting the chance to ask them a few questions and benefit from their wisdom is such a boost. It’s keeping me moving in the right direction, tomorrow I will know more than today and I hope it carries on like that until the finish line.
JA: I’ve got to agree with that. Getting tips from Marc and Cyril is awesome, plus we have the support of KTM’s factory mechanics. If I need to ask a question on any subject, from navigation to tyre pressure, there’s always an expert close-by.