Dakar preparations on the go
READY FOR THE CHALLENGE: Dakar vehicles gather in the port of Le Havre in France before being shipped off to Lima, Peru, where the rally kicks off.
For more than 30 years 'Dakar' rally competitors have known the French port of Le Havre as the place to collect vehicles shipped after the race from the capital of Senegal.
However the Norman stopover has taken on an even greater dimension since 2009. Its where (mostly European) vehicles are loaded on ships that will take them to South America ahead of the start of the new version of the once-African rally.
That the Dakar is a land of contrasts can already be seen on the docks of Le Havre port, where the competitors congregate ahead of a huge operation to put vehicles aboard the freighter which will take them to Lima in Peru
X-Raid's nine assistance trucks were already in front of the sentry box at the entrance in the early hours of Thursday, November 22, 2012 The keys of the six Minis and the BMW X3 which will take part in the rally have been entrusted to the team of mechanics and engineers who will make the last few tweaks.
The defending champion team takes the Le Havre stopover seriously and not as a mere formality, unlike others for whom making it to Normandy is already a victory in itself. One such is Manuel Lucchese, who smiles as he talks of his recent mishaps after a first Dakar plagued by problems:
"I had a lot of trouble setting up my project this year and was unable to get my hands on a motorcycle until November 22.”
Other Stories in Dakar...
The 9500km haul through Argentina and Chile was the longest, highest and toughest Dakar yet. Among the survivors were Toyota South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, Dirk von Zitzewitz, Leeroy Poulter, Rob Howie and privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr.
Giniel de Villiers was not the only South African to make waves at the 2014 Dakar, truck driver Albert Geel was co-driver in the fastest truck running in the grueling rally.