2011 Dakar Rally… Final Prep

2011 Dakar Rally407 racers and crew will take the starter’s orders for the 2011 Dakar Argentina Chile, which begins tomorrow with a starting ceremony at the foot of the Obelisk in Buenos Aires, followed by a warm-up stage to Victoria, before a first timed stage on Sunday morning.

In the meantime, the Dakar spectators who came to La Rural were able to see the main protagonists of the race and designate their favorites.

From tomorrow, the champions and lesser lights of the rally raid discipline will be testing themselves against each other over 9,000 kilometers of dirt roads and tracks. A handful of them will be involved in the battle for the 2011 Dakar title, but there are still many grey areas.

The elite amongst the 170 motorcycle riders on the starting line are all now riding 450cc motorcycles. According the general consensus, this rule change will level the motorcycle playing field.

While KTM riders Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, winners of the last five Dakar Rallies, retain their positions as favorites, the appetites of their challengers lends to the battles yet to come over the next two weeks.

David Casteu says: "I know how good they are and I know how good I am. I’m world champion in the category," points out enduro rider, who is aiming as high as possible for the Sherco team.

Francisco Lopez says: "There are now enormous expectations for me," observed the leading Chilean rider for the Aprilla team, "but they are also my expectations".

Moving from one camera and microphone to another, the main players in the race have already started their psychological battles in the aisles of the inspection hall.

Out of the 30 quads enrolled on the race, yesterday the Argentineans only had eyes for Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli, their heroes of the last edition.

They hardly noticed Josef Machacek today, but the Czech rider, who won the category five times between 2000 and 2009, could snatch the limelight from the two siblings.

Marc Coma says: "I’m as keen as a beginner. It’s all-new: the project, the bike, the team. It’s wonderful to start again like this with a new phase in a career that’s already been going for 9 years."

"I’m very proud to still be here after such a long slice of life in a demanding sport. Obviously, I want to win this Dakar, but the race will be very open."

"The switchover to 450cc is now showing its full potential and plenty of riders can stake a claim to the title. It’s good for the race in general and good for my race. There will be less focus on a duel with Despres, like in previous years".

On Jan. 1, 2011, the starting ceremony for the riders and drivers in the 2011 Dakar Argentina Chile will witness a grand show for all the motorcycle racing fans of the rally.

The Dakar will be respecting the tradition of the first editions, which systematically started on Jan. 1 at place de la Concorde in Paris.

This time, the competitors will indeed be passing an obelisk, yet it is the one on the Avenue of 9th July in Buenos Aires, before heading for Victoria, along a road section.

The stopwatches will not be ticking for the opening Dakar Rally day. However, after this first section of the route, the competitors will be setting up for the night in the bivouac.