With four days to go before the opening stage and on the eve of the beginning of the technical and administrative verifications, 316 vehicles are awaited in Asunción for the 39th edition.
- The vehicles coming from Europe have disembarked in Argentina. They put in a first liaison of around 1,200 kilometres to reach the Paraguayan capital city.
The days leading up to the start of the Dakar are for many filled with last-minute anxieties, small adjustments and a long wait that comes to an end. They have been very busy for those who have already put in the kilometres before the start.
There is already an atmosphere of voyage in the air. The Grande Francia, which made the three-week trip across the Atlantic transporting more than 600 vehicles from Le Havre (organization, media, race and assistance included), has been empty now for a week. While all the bikes and quads were routed towards Asunción by a parade of tractor-trailers, the cars quietly awaited their owners, invited to pick them up for the past two days.
While the majority of the cars and trucks in the fight for the top spots were retrieved by their assistance crews who will look after their well-being throughout the rally, some drivers went themselves to the port of Zarate, near Buenos Aires, to take on a healthy portion of the 1,200 kilometres! Gerard de Rooy, who never loses sight of his Iveco for very long, led the procession of his team, not behind the wheel of his truck but rather in a 4x4 that will follow during the rally. The route was even longer for Joan Font and even more so for his team mate Oriol Vidal in the transporting of their SSVs towards Paraguay. The number 373 Yamaha suffered its first setback just before the half-way point break scheduled by the organizers. “It took us longer than we thought it would to get to Santa Fé, because we had a fuel pick up problem, which forced to make several stops. In the end, we slept very little and took a quick shower at the hotel before continuing on”, explained co-driver Santi Navarro, who was still at the Paraguay border in the afternoon.
Getting to Asunción could be a bit laborious for some Europeans... it was also for certain "neighbours", who’s journey was significantly longer to reach the Paraguayan capital. This was the case for Marco Bulacia who rode nearly 1,500 kilometres from Santa Cruz in Bolivia. “I am already relieved just to get here; you could say that with such a long ‘liaison’, the Dakar has already begun for us!” Those coming for example from Santiago put more than 2,000 kilometres on their machines before taking the start...but they are from the record. Among those who have had to travel the longest distance, first place goes to Lyndon Poskitt who is returning to the rally after finishing 46th in 2013. The Englishman arrived in Asuncion after a long tour of the Americas on a nearly three month ride starting in Alaska. On his bike, that deserves some rest, Lyndon set off on his KTM crossing the continent, from Texas to Brazil by way of Mexico, and a crossing of the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia. While he has already totalled more than the 9,000km of the Dakar route, the hardest part is still to come.