2011 Dakar Interview
The 2011 Dakar Rally was launched on Saturday in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires, including KTM factory rider Cyril Despres.
The Frenchman, who is the reigning Dakar champ with his KTM teammate Marc Coma, will be looking to give KTM its 10th title in one of the world’s most prestigious races; Despres will be competing on the KTM 450 Rally.
Following is an interview with Despres, who rode a 377-km stretch to open up the Dakar on Saturday. Despres starts the first stage of the 2011 Dakar today (Sunday); riders head for Cordoba for Stage One – 566 km on the road and a 192 km special timed section designed for the technically proficient over narrow tracks that will give riders a first taste of what to expect in the next 16 days.
Following is an interview with Cyril Despres (conducted by photographer Gonzalo Corrado).
Q. Your first bike was purchased with money from your first communion. Not bad!
Cyril Despres says: "In my first communion did not want a regular gift: a stereo, sunglasses. I was not interested. I had asked my family some money, it was not much, because for some years, from 10 or 11 I wanted to ride a bike and the 400, I got $ 500 I could buy one.
"Each month opened the magazine to see where I could find a trial bike second hand and at the end, I found one in Paris, which is 80 miles from where I lived. And there were no classes Wednesday I took the train without telling anyone, or father, or mother, and went to Paris only 14 years, the first time in my life that was. I took the Metro to get to the store and went to the place.
"Actually it was a second hand bike really was a little worn but I did not care, I had money to buy that. I returned home without telling my parents. After I told Dad, this Saturday looking for in a trailer, and went to try it. It was crazy, like a boy of 14 who like Ferraris and end up with a Ferrari."
Q. Why run in deserts in the first place? What is sexy?
Cyril Despres says: "I made the motorcycle mechanic school and then worked at a bike shop preparing machines for desert. Then for three or four years, prepared, did not spot that makes a big difference, with the deposit, with all that was needed for customers who were going to run into the desert.
"And I was excited. In 1997, the owner of this store in Paris, he injured his leg and spent the winter broken. In the end, decided not to go to his next rally was in Africa, Tunisia, a week-long, but I paid my registration. Everything was ready, and he said: ‘I’m injured, but go with my bike, my tires and you’ll make your first rally.’ So I left. On the third day, I stayed at the dunes that are 100 by 100 kilometers in the middle of nowhere. I stopped to tell myself: But how can this be? Being a motorcycle alone, here in the middle of nowhere fully."
Q. Running in Dakar, what do you need?
Cyril Despres says: "The most important thing is to think every detail is all there is to prepare, from making custom clothes, your drinks and energy food yourself, so fitness with a trainer at home every day.
Today for example we are doing this interview but in a month and half of the Dakar can not do nothing, so I got up at 5 this morning to go training in the gym at the hotel. That is a detail, but many details to be prepared to do a competition like the Dakar, long and hard: you have to think of everything. And that’s the difference to reach a good result.
"You can not let any little detail aside. On the mechanics, about the people around you, your team, then good, are efforts to do well, because the man is not made to stay on top of a bike for ten or twelve hours each day. We must work, work, work, in all forms."
Q. It’s true. Seen from the outside looks like a great adventure, but the difficulties are numerous. Dakar race also has a halo, is unique in its class.
Cyril Despres says: "If you look from the outside all sports are fun, never risk, you spend never wrong. But when you go up to a Formula 1 to make a turn, is very complicated, there are buttons everywhere, going very fast, when you brake your body disintegrates.
"Then every sport, when done on a professional level, it seems from the outside but not easy, it is not. The rally, to me, is what I like to do in life, but as someone once said, in the way of a desert motorcycle racer no pink flowers on each side.
"There are injuries, I lost teammates, no accidents, but there are victories, victories of a team. It is difficult to say and give the reason, the more difficult question for me is why you do the Dakar, and I tell you what I like, and I have the luck to do so."
Q. There is some fever about motorcycling today. Many men are adopting.
Cyril Despres says: "I believe that life is not easy for everyone, some can do in a professional sport to earn it, and others have to work in different jobs to try to buy your bike and enjoy the weekend.
"I think everything will go fast on two wheels, feel free to do whatever you want. You put on your helmet, you hear nothing. That feeling of freedom when working in a city like Buenos Aires or Paris or Barcelona, it is, that feeling of freedom you can have in all parts of the world, in a pilot helmet bike, a motorcycle, once you put it, is the same.
"A grip, a clutch, two wheels and go at your pace, on track, off track in the dunes, in circuit, anywhere, but the feeling is the same."
The 2011 edition, the 33rd Dakar Rally, takes competitors through Argentina and over the Andes, up to the northern most tip of Chile, through the notorious Atacama Desert, the world’s driest region then looping back through Argentina to finish again in Buenos Aires.
Photo Credit: Gonzalo Corrado