|SA-Dakar 2012: French favourite Nissan Team Dessoude raring to go for race.|
The French Team Dessoude is ready, and got down to serious business in the Argentine seaside resort of Mar del Plata on Friday. The first two days were reserved for administrative and technical scrutineering - always a rather anxious moment for the engineers and for the Team Manager, André Dessoude. But after two and a half hours, the verdict was given by the administrators: Clear to go - the team is now ready for the 2012 Dakar.
Numerous competitors, including many of those aiming for the podiums, gathered around the Dessoude cars today. There is no doubt that the 2012 Team Dessoude is a source of worry for the paddock: New cars, a united team, strong line-ups and heightened ambitions.
However, the boss, André Dessoude, remains clear-headed: "The race has not yet got underway, and as always, we will be judged out on the stages. However, I have to admit that it is very pleasing to see our rivals looking closely at our cars, and coming to congratulate us. We were really at the crossroads. We were still competitive, and always up among the elite in rally-raid competition, but our equipment needed to be revised. So we decided to increase our workload and our investment in order to compete in new vehicles."
And what vehicles! Christian Lavieille, who will be behind the wheel of the flagship of the Norman armada, has an extremely competitive prototype, with a top-speed that is already making some of his rivals jealous. This is also the only car which corresponds to the new race criteria, a gamble on the future for Team Dessoude. The Proto Atacama (build on Mitsubishi Racing Lancer Evo basics), driven by Frédéric Chavigny, will allow this driver, who has claimed many titles in the T2 category, to step up a gear and make his debut in the T1 category, up with the ‘big boys’.
The Oryx Buggies have become reliable, and, last but not least, Zhou Jihong will be driving the still-valiant N05 Proto. This evening, on the eve of the 2012 Dakar, André and his whole team are smiling and happy, and would like to wish all their partners and fans an excellent 2012.
A few hours before the start, Christian is really appreciating his air conditioning: "The temperatures are already very high - luckily we are on the Atlantic coast! If it is as hot as this inland it will be very difficult. Luckily, this year, we have air conditioning in the car. I am definitely not putting any pressure on myself, even if many drivers have been looking at our new car with great interest. The race is fifteen days long, so we will start off calmly."
Former freeclimbing world champion Isabelle Patissier has been busy during the scrutineering: "We have been much in demand, and have already done three presentations. It is now time to get our concentration and to finish our preparations. The 2012 Dakar will be difficult for the two-wheel-drive cars, with less sand and a very high level of competition. This year, there is no waiting time, and we will have to be on the pace very quickly, by Sunday morning actually. But I am delighted that we will be going to Peru for the first time, it is a real adventure."
Frédéric Chavigny, as usual, is extremely calm outside of the cockpit, a contrast with his behaviour in the race: "This year, we will try to fight with the big boys! This may be my first Dakar in this category, and it is also the first Dakar for the Protoytype Atacama, but everything is going well, and I can’t wait to get underway."
Thierry Magnaldi is also raring to go: "The preparations have been perfect, there has been an enormous amount of work done, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank André and his partners. The administrative and technical checks went well, and the pressure is slowly growing. The aim is clear : to get to the end in a good position. We’ll follow the right path to get to the end - we’ve just got to do it."
The Chinese driver Zhou Jihong, who had made his Dakar debut last year in the service crew, is very concentrated. He now knows the team well and is learning French, although he is still more at ease with gestures than with words. The crew is keen to learn and is absorbing rapidly all the lessons from the master, André Dessoude.
2011/12/31 | 03:21 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/DESSOUDE