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Dakar 2009: Volkswagen´s Michel Périn and the lost Dakar treasure.

Innumerable maps, sketches and so-called road books from seven Dakar Rally starts pile up in Volkswagen co-driver Michel Périn’s study at his home in Epernay. Year for year the Frenchman, since 2004 contracted to the Wolfsburg based automobile manufacturer, prepared for the world famous long-distance rally with these valuable documents and his enormous experience.

However, all these meticulously archived documents suddenly lost their value, because instead of going through North Africa the Dakar Rally crosses South America for the first time from 3 to 13 January 2009. Argentina and Chile instead of Morocco, Mauretania and Senegal - for Michel Périn, co-driver of two-time Rally World Champion and Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz (Spain), the hunt for any possible form of information a new challenge.

"My documents and experience from seven ‘Dakar´ starts have always been an important basic element for my preparation, it was like a priceless treasure for me," says the 52-year old Périn, who won the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup twice with Volkswagen. "And now it´s as if I´ve lost this treasure. But that is just the ‘Dakar´ in every respect merciless and demanding."

Michel Périn has found new methods of leaving a little as possible to chance during his professional preparation. "Whether you like it or not there will be surprises in this rally," knows the experienced navigator. "I´ve scoured the shops and libraries close to Paris and got hold of every map of Argentina and Chile that I could find. I´ve researched in the Internet and watched films about these two countries. It´s all about knowing as much as possible about the nature of the landscapes which we´ll cross. Every detail counts and will help us to be able to assess the route better if we - as usual - only receive the road book the evening before the stage which informs us exactly where the route takes us."

At least Michel Périn has a vague idea of which demanding tracks, dunes etc. await him and Carlos Sainz. In 2005 he scored the first victory for the Volkswagen Race Touareg with his countryman Bruno Saby as driver in the Rally Por Las Pampas through areas of Argentina and Chile which will be used in part during the ‘Dakar´. "I expect an extremely demanding ‘Dakar´ and I would be more comfortable if I had more information beforehand. Nevertheless it fascinates me that it´s the same now for everybody," says Périn. "The first win for the Race Touareg in 2005 in South America is certainly a good omen."

2008/11/20 | 19:01 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Uwe Baldes

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