HEADED FOR ARGENTINA: Hundreds of vehicles are headed for Buenos Aires, the start of the 2015 Dakar Rally, after loading at Le Havre in France. Image: Dakar.com
LE HAVRE, France - Organisers of the 2015 Dakar Rally report 645 vehicles passed mandatory technical and administrative checks at Le Havre Port, France earlier in November 2014 and were cleared to set sail for Argentina, where the rally will begin on January 4.
If the Dakar is hallowed ground for rally drivers and riders, then the French port of Le Havre is the great festival where competitors gather, exchange impressions and prepare for the most gruelling off-road event.
Ever since 2009, after the rally was cancelled because of threats from bandits the loading of vehicles at the second-biggest port in France, has become a rite of passage and, in a way, the first stage of the rally.
Fans relish the opportunity to see the vehicles and competitors up close, while the drivers and riders ease into the racing mindset. To arrive in France, some have already covered distances worthy of any of the 13 stages of the Dakar, with competitors flocking from South Africa, UK, Czech Republic, Lithuania, USA and Russia.
Once the safety devices (Iritrack and GPS) were set up, stickers placed and legal formalities out of the way, they all turned their minds to Buenos Aires, the start of the 2015 Dakar.
Le Havre Port's 'Ro-Ro' (roll on, roll off) terminal became the world's biggest motor sports logistics platform for 48 hours (Nov 20/21).
About 140 people handled the two days of scrutineering on behalf of the rally organisers. They checked a 4.6km line of vehicles, ready to be loaded on to the Grande Amburgo carge ship.
The 200m ship and its load of 645 race, assistance, news media and organisation vehicles will embark on a 21-day transatlantic crossing to Euro America Port, near Buenos Aires.
The competitors will retrieve their race cars on December 31 2014, four days before the start.
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