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The streets of Buenos Aires pay tribute to the Dakar

Dakar Rally kickoff celebration
Saturday, January 01, 2011

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One truck class driver showing off for the crowd
New Year’s Day. Summer holidays. Unbearable heat. However, the inhabitants in and around Buenos Aires did not hesitate. Over a million people came, and for many of them, it is not the first time. They came to see the parade of the 407 vehicles that will take part in the Dakar 2011 and, afterwards, the beginning of their journey towards Victoria, where they will find their first bivouac.

For example, there is Raquel, 32 years old, a kindergarten teacher from the Flores district in Buenos Aires: “It is the third time I come. I come to feel the enthusiasm, the excitement and to support the Argentinean contenders”.

Sergio, 23 years old, a San Miguel employee, has come to see the cars, same as another Sergio who is a mechanic in the capital city and has also come to “support the local riders and drivers and to help the Dakar return to Argentina.”

Angela, 23 years old, protected by the shade of her parasol, is fascinated by the women who take part in this race: “I really admire their participation”. Next to her, Darcy, 56 years old, Brazilian on vacation, couldn’t agree more: “To see all this in one of the most beautiful cities of the world is simply magical!”

A motorcycle competitor gets well wishes
The show before the show!
The podium ceremony with the presentation of the contenders and crews has become one of the traditions adopted by the Porteños since the Dakar organizers chose their city as the start and finish points of the race. Besides the presentation of the vehicles on the podium, the spectators also come to enjoy the atmosphere provided by the activities organized on the 9 de Julio Avenue. Great crowds gathered behind the barriers before the arrival of the champions and got a first taste thanks to the “advertising caravan”, composed of around 15 vehicles, generously distributing caps and other souvenirs. Music lovers were also in for a treat thanks to the wonderful music, ranging from the military band of around a hundred “patricios” in gala uniform, to the mix sessions of the DJ sponsored by Red Bull next to the podium. But clearly it was Chris Pfeiffer, biker-acrobat, who stole the show… before giving way to the real stars, the Rally’s great adventurers.

The double oath of Rodrigo Caballero
All it took was a phone call from the ASO management last Friday towards the end of the afternoon and Rodrigo Caballero, who was born almost less than 20 years ago in Huasco 180 km from Copiapo, found himself reading the competitors' oath at the general briefing of the 2011 Dakar, just as he had done last year. It is not every day that you are allowed to stand on a stage next to the raid's General Manager, Etienne Lavigne and in front of all of those enrolled in the top rally raid of the season, but for Rodrigo Caballero this exercise has become a habit. "I pledge to respect the safety of all people over and above any sporting imperative..." So for a few minutes, Rodrigo read all the requirements that build up the moral commitments of the Dakar contenders. Rodrigo was given the text to read just a short 5 minutes before actually having to read it, but that was fine by him. Since withdrawing after stage 3 last year, the young man has gained trust and discernment. "This year, I have looked at all the details. I have been driving a lot. I participated in a number of races. I know I will finish this Dakar and I even think I can be in the Top 30." Beware a public oath always hides a more private and personal one...

Hans: safety first
It is a concern for some Dakar competitors, like Francisco Regunaschi, who thinks that the system will be uncomfortable to wear: “With the overalls, in addition to the necessity to wear a tee-shirt and leggings underneath, adding the Hans will make us suffer from overheating even more”. The new FIA standard now obliges competitors to wear this protective device, which supports the neck bones and is already widespread on race circuits, particularly in Formula One. Its arrival on the rally circuit came in 2010 and is definitely justified, according to Jean-Pierre Rolland, one of the race officials for the car category in attendance at scrutineering Buenos Aires. “Even when enforced in regional rallies, this measure has genuinely reduced the seriousness of injuries,” he points out. The Hans (Head And Neck Support) is placed on the shoulders and is given greater solidity by the harness. An optional extra involves linking it to the helmet by two straps, in order to give even better protection to the head and avoid whiplash. The cost of the Hans systems is approximately 600 euros / 795 dollars. The full approved system with helmet costs 1000 euros / 1325 dollars.

2011 Dakar Route
José Maria Ezeiza: a town behind Sergio Petrone
It is where the Federal Capital’s airport is situated. It is also home to a movement created to send a bike rider on the Dakar. It was Sergio Giuno, owner of the Egypto disco, who first had the idea. The code name of the operation is Mision Ezeiza Dakar. Since last March along with Matias Pérez, a journalist, and Abel Musso, a mechanic, as well as other charitable souls, they have held many events and meetings to raise the sum necessary: meals (called ‘penas’ locally), raffles, and door-to-door canvassing have helped to build up bit by bit the kitty that the town’s inhabitants have helped swell by giving between 500 and 20,000 pesos. Even the town’s mayor, Alejandro Granados, weighed in, by sending a letter to a dozen major local firms, who thus contributed to enrolling Sergio Petrone, as well as Pablo Cid de la Paz, who joined the project. A hundred thousand pesos have been collected and they have nearly reached their target. “A lot of shops and very small businesses are helping us,” states Sergio Petrone, proud of his 175 bib number and still finding it difficult to believe that he will be riding with the big shots, after having started out selling newspapers and cigarettes in the street.

Street just in time!
American Jonah Street had a nasty surprise on arrival in Buenos Aires, when he found out that a significant part of his equipment, including his tires, was still held up by the Argentine customs. The Californian biker, 7th in the 2010 edition, was finally able to retrieve his belongings yesterday at the end of the morning; not ideal preparation when aiming for a place on the podium. “It’s all the more annoying since the equipment arrived in Argentina two weeks ago,” he says, “and that the person her who was supposed to collect it didn’t do it…” Street will thus be able to fit his new Yamaha with new tires for its presentation on the podium today.

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