BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The verdict of the administrative and technical scrutineering came out in Tecnópolis on Saturday (Jan 3 2015) afternoon and 406 vehicles (161 motorcycles, 45 quads, 137 cars and 63 trucks) were cleared to start the 37th edition of the race.
CITY OF RACE FANS: Thousands of people watched the symbolic start of the 2015 Dakar in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday January 3. The race will start today (Jan 4) in Buenos Aires, go through Bolivia and Chile, and fininish on Jan 17.
A fearsome battle for the four titles looms, especially in the two main categories, cars and motorcycles, in which the favourites have largely kept their powder dry
Throughout two days and a morning of administrative and technical checks under the sun and the sometimes heavy rain falling on the Tecnópolis centre in Buenos Aires the big constructors, their star riders and drivers, sought to play down the huge event.
'MR DAKAR' HAILS NEW ERA
It will starts later today (Jan 4) and will take them on a 9300km adventure on the tracks, sand and rocks of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.
Peugeot, fielding three DKR units to be driven by Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres - Despres a five-times motorcycle champion making his debut in the car category - bared its teeth… though only a little. "Mister Dakar" Peterhansel hailed a new era; "El Matador" Sainz, a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, talked of a test edition.Mini is also flying under the radar with its 11
entries – among them a buggy driven by comeback kid Chicherit. Leader Nani Roma quietly pointed out: "The year just flew by! It feels like Valparaíso was yesterday… ". Yet it was his humility that really shone through.
"We're starting from scratch," he explained on Saturday morning as team mate Nasser al-Attiyah got ready to wipe the slate clean. However, there is much more to the car category than the clash of these two Titans. Behind their eagerly awaited duel prudent and talented South African Giniel de Villiers in his South African Toyota Hilux (one of two entered, the other crewed by Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie), hopes to make good on the promise he showed in 2014.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Gache's three buggies will be worth watching. The car category looks increasingly like a gallery of evolution and buggies are increasing their presence, as shown by the return of the prodigal son Guerlain Chicherit, invited by Sven Quandt himself.
"My mission is to go further than the Peugeots," he explained. The buggies' battle for dominance is on – and it will be fearsome.
Marc Coma and his retinue are also making the most of the calm before the storm. The four-times winner in the motorcycle category is the visible face of a well-oiled machine. Although he’s taken a leaf out of the other favourites' book in adopting a humble stance, he is obviously the man to beat.
He will be shadowed by the consistent Viladoms and the promising Sunderland. KTM's three-pronged assault seems unbeatable on paper - and probably on the race. "We've trained well. I also trained at altitude back home in Spain," was the Catalan's curt explanation.
In the same line, Joan Barreda - the most prolific stage winner of the previous edition (five stages, only good enough for seventh overall though!) - and his HRC team mates (Rodrigues, Gonçalves, Israel, Sanz) appeared unfazed during scrutineering. He said: "We came early to Buenos Aires to acclimatise. We're ready."
Meanwhile the pressure lies squarely on Honda's shoulders – for the famous bike brand it would appear to be “now or never”.
The start podium and the sparkling parade put on a great show for fans in Buenos Aires with racers sizing each out up one last time on Saturday but the real thing starts today (Sunday Jan 4 2015).
"The world cup of adventure” is what Étienne Lavigne called it in reference to the 54 nationalities represented during the general briefing on Saturday afternoon.
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