407 riders and crews will take starter’s orders for the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile 2011, which begins tomorrow with a starting ceremony at the foot of the obelisk in Buenos Aires, followed by a link stage to Victoria, before a first special stage on Sunday morning. In the meantime, the spectators who came to La Rural were able to see the main protagonists of the race and designate their favourites. – DAKAR 2011 News via Dakar.com
It has all begun. From tomorrow, the champions and lesser lights of the rally raid discipline will be testing themselves against each other over 9,000 kilometres of roads and tracks. A handful of them will be involved in the battle for the title, but there are still many grey areas. The elite amongst the 170 bikers present on the starting line are now riding 450cc machines. According the general consensus, this revolution will level the playing field. Whilst Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, winners of the last five editions, retain their positions as favourites, the appetites of their challengers give us an idea of the battles to come over the next two weeks. “I know how good they are and I know how good I am. I’m world champion in the category,” points out David Casteu, who is aiming as high as possible for the Sherco team. “There are now enormous expectations for me,” observed the leading Chilean rider, the Aprilla team’s Francisco Lopez, “but they are also my expectations”. Moving from one camera and microphone to another, the main players in the race have already started their psychological battles in the aisles of the scrutineering hall.Out of the 30 quads enrolled on the race, yesterday the Argentineans only had eyes for Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli, their heroes of the last edition. They hardly noticed Josef Machacek today, but the Czech rider, who won the category five times between 2000 and 2009, could snatch the limelight from the two siblings.On four wheels, the parade of the favourites turned into a beauty contest with the entrance of the X-Raid Team. The team’s surprise for 2011, the Mini Countryman (that’s ‘man’ in spite of its impressive curves…) entrusted to Guerlain Chicherit triggered a burst of camera flashes from professional and amateur photographers alike. This first triumph on the clapometer will not suffice for the native of the French mountains, who will be doing his utmost to stay on the tail of his team-mate Stephane Peterhansel. The mission of the enhanced, improved and more reliable BMW X3 is to dethrone the Volkswagen Race Touaregs, also presented in an even more high-performance version than last year’s! “I want to hold on to my title,” confidently declared Carlos Sainz. However, his closest rival in 2010, Nasser Al-Attiyah, will do all he can to prevent him: “I’m getting more and more confident. I really need to win this rally”. Robby Gordon, in his fluorescent orange Hummer, does not intend to be a spectator of the VW – BMW duel: “I’m here to win,” is the mantra of the American, who completes the list of pretenders to the crown. In total, 140 crews successfully passed the scrutineering “exams”, though none of them can be certain of the position they will finish in on 16th January.The 67 trucks enrolled will be faced with a pursuit behind the Kamaz team. However, the pressure that De Rooy and Loprais intend to put them under promises a race that should hold many surprises in store.
For more race info, check out Dakar.com.