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Dakar 2009: Rally sold out, Interview with Etienne Lavigne.

More than 600 entry forms have been received six months ahead of the start, it’s already a success for the Dakar Argentina-Chile. Because it really is "the Dakar" that will be run in Argentina and Chile from January 3-18, 2009. New regions worthy of the most difficult rally in the world will provide the competitors all they will require to push their limits. Those who like to surpass their capabilities have answered in mass for this all-new challenge.

From May 15 to June 15, the competitors who had been chosen for the 2008 Dakar were given a sign up « grace period » and they will make up 65% of the field of the next Dakar. After the six weeks following the start of the inscription period, more than 500 teams had already been chosen, after a review of their entry form, to take part in the next edition of the rally. Among them, 16% are first time participants.

The field will be, as last year, world-class with the presences of factory teams and the top independent teams. This summer, the reconnaissance runs will continue on as will all the preparations in order to ensure this new challenge is a success.

Interview with Etienne Lavigne

Q: What conclusions can be drawn about registrations for Dakar 2009?

Lavigne: The result is excellent. It’s a real success; we’ve received almost 600 applications. There is a very real enthusiasm for the 2009 edition. This proves, quite simply, that the Dakar is unique - always a great adventure, and it is inimitable. The Dakar goes on - and continues to inspire dreams.

I would like to take advantage of this interview to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the competitors who’ve registered for the Dakar 2009, in spite of the difficult context, those people have shown a great deal of confidence in us.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Dakar 2009?

Lavigne: This will be a really great event! Believe me, we have rarely been so excited as we were by what we saw on our reconnaissance trips - what a discovery! Breathtaking landscapes, and such incredible diversity! Time and time again, we stopped in our tracks - simply to admire our surroundings. It is indescribable - nature in a pure state.

Q: In concrete terms, what is the course like?

Lavigne: The route is ambitious - remember, we’ll be doing 6,000 km of specials! It will be extremely varied - there will be fast, very fast, steering, sand, and dunes - drivers will need the skill to adapt to different race conditions from one day to the next. The route will be both testing and demanding... People will have to be very well prepared, physically.

Q: So should competitors expect a difficult route?

Lavigne: Yes. We are organising the Dakar, not a walk in the park, and the Dakar has to be the toughest race in the world.

Q: In practical terms - will there be bivouacs?

Lavigne: Of course! And every day! This is another example of where competitors are going to be very surprised. We’ve selected extraordinary locations - for example, alongside the Atlantic and Pacific oceans! And in the middle of the Pampa, we’ll be offering sumptuous and wild bivouacs! In places where we can really make the most of the natural environment around us!

The ‘Bivouac’ spirit with catering, briefings, all the competitors coming together to share their experiences. It’s essential, this is the Dakar spirit, these are our values.

Q: So the competitors won’t be staying in hotels?

Lavigne: No. As in Africa, it’s a personal choice. Those who want to stay in hotels can drive a few kilometres and find just what they’re after.

Q: Is the Dakar popular in South America?

Lavigne: For our friends in Argentina and Chile, hosting the Dakar is like organising the World Cup. When the competitors are welcomed by 500,000 spectators in Cordoba, the words ‘human warmth’ will really come into their own! The enthusiasm being generated by the Dakar in Argentina and in Chile is immense, the participants will receive a real hero’s welcome.

Q: Changes to the rules?

Lavigne: The technical regulations for cars, bikes and trucks will be identical to those for the Dakar 2008.

Q: What about the media?

Lavigne: There are no worries on this front. The Dakar will be broadcast in 180 countries! The media actively seek to be part of the adventure; their level of curiosity is very high.

Amateurs will be at the forefront, and we want to take advantage of this new Dakar to remind people of a few essential values: this is above all a course made for amateurs, with the presence of professional teams. This is where the magic of Dakar lies.

The T2 category will also be very well-supported - to give a simple example, the T2 vehicles will be identified by very brightly-coloured plate backgrounds, so that journalists will be able to identify the vehicle category in an instant.

Q: A word on the venue for the next Dakar?

Lavigne: All the categories will be fiercely contested, as they were at the Central Europe Rally! And above all, we should enjoy a fabulous race from the independents. Gache, Delecour, Lavieille, Muller, Monteiro, Gordon, Henrard, Kahle, Patissier, Errandonea, Vigouroux... I’m bound to have forgotten someone! And in T2 - what a fight... the differences are often infinitesimal!

As for the bikes, again the number of outsiders is impressive... As well as the trucks, which are once again going to offer us a superb race!

Q: How does your calendar look over the next few months?

Lavigne: A third reconnaissance phase in July, September and October. Then preparation for the first part of the Le Havre scrutineering - a busy schedule!

2008/07/17 | 23:28 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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