With anticipation gripping the Argentinian seaside resort of Mar del Plata it soon become clear what was the hottest ticket in town. The crowds swarmed around the Red Bull Energy Station in an attempt to get into pole position for a photo with their favourite Dakar darling.
The day revved into gear when the KTM factory team took the stage with Marc Coma and Cyril Despres in the thick of things. The pair with six Dakar titles between them took the chance to show off the new bosom buddy relationship they have fostered since putting their bitter rivalry aside.
Top of the list of questioning was what the riders expect to find when the Dakar arrives in Peru, the 27th different country to host the desert classic.
“This year the race has many more miles of open desert and dunes compared with the other times the Dakar has been in South America. On those previous occasions things have been done and dusted long before arriving back in Buenos Aires. Now we go to Peru and that means it will be tough terrain right up until the finish line. This year there will be absolutely no opportunity to relax.” – Marc Coma
When 2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Viliers arrived at the Red Bull Energy Station he was also put on the spot about this year’s fresh route.
“There’s no doubt about it, this year it’s going to be harder to get our car to finish line than ever before in South America. We’re going to have sand under the tyres right up until the last stage and that makes things much more unpredictable. When I won in 2009 the route returned to Buenos Aires and we had lots of WRC style stages. What we have in 2012 is a tougher track but that’s something my co-pilot Dirk and myself are really looking forward to.” – Giniel de Villiers
There was a hushed respect in the Dakar Village as seven-time champion Vladimir Chagin made his way to the Red Bull Energy Station. Chagin bowed out of competitive action after winning last year’s Dakar but he has returned to Argentina as head coach of Team Kamaz.
“I have a new profession and I have devoted all my energy to it this year. I’ve been trying hard to pass on my experience to the younger drivers throughout my career and now it has become my full job. I have tried to encapsulate my previous experiences into a kind of theory so I can pass these skills onto the younger generation. I’ve also been thinking about when I was a young driver with a weight of responsibility on my shoulders. This has helped me to understand the tools that I have to pass on.” – Vladimir Chagin.
Dakar Digit: 10
Competing in the Dakar can be lonely experience, especially if you get stranded in the desert for a couple of days! That’s why Argentinian quad biker Mauricio Jurado has invited 10 members of his family from his hometown of Rosario to spend New Year’s Eve in Mar del Plata. Mauricio’s El Paso Rally Team consists of Vilma and Jorge (Mum and Dad), Vero (Wife), Fernando and Maxi (Brothers) Marian, Mara and Maricruz (Sisters), Sol (Daughter) and Juani (Son). Mauricio recently finished fourth in the Argentinian Quad Biking Championship and he hopes to follow his compatriots Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli to the top of the Dakar leaderboard.
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- Dakar 2012: Ones to Watch | Bikes