Were 4 years that I no longer did the Dakar, i missed it, i finally get better organized and fix the work commitments. In 1991 Nikon decided to assign the distribution to our group, and you had to make a new company the nital in the footsteps of the swa, have been years of fire where obviously you couldn't do anything but put all the effort into this project. But I was missing something. I missed the adrenaline of dakar adventure. After 4 years practically just work i deserved it, and so I decide: i'm going to do it.
I get in touch with Bruno Birbes and Pollini of the Assomoto team with whom I had attended last time. In addition to feelings of strong friendship for them, with Bruno we met at Dakar 1988, he was racing in a BMW and we were pretty much together for half the race, dividing anxieties and happiness, thing that bound us deeply even after the race. Their team was perfect: assistance, a logistics, and Struggling, Bruno's father-in-law, great mechanic who immediately put himself into operation setting up for me a kawasaki 650. The choice of the bike was easily dictated by the fact that Bruno was a Kawasaki dealer.
Free from organizational and motorcycle preparation commitments, I dedicate to physical and motorcycle training, making a great preparation. In December I was in splendid shape!
I don't even try the bike, but I have to say it was beautiful: simple, small and handy.
I take the plane to Granada where everyone is waiting for me and where the technical and administrative checks must be carried out. Small engraved: the taxi that from the airport took me to the hotel hole a tire, in a torrential rain and as a true gentleman I offer to help the female driver. Wet start, lucky start. In the morning we start for two tests, the first is immediately cancelled due to bad weather. The torrential rain of the night before did not seem to fall even for a moment. Not even time to get acquainted with the new bike that has become a block of mud.
After a transfer we arrive at the port for boarding. Everything is going well, there are bunks and you sleep. Non-secondary factor, since in the past you slept on the ground and there were no bunks for the ship crossing from Sete to Algiers. What a convenience! First bedtime I take the Ariam, the medicine for malaria. This time I decide for this drug because you take it once a week, and not every day. Clearly the dosage is higher and I get a terrible headache and scary nausea. When he wakes up he seems to have passed under a truck. It will be the last time I take an antimalarial.
Finally in Africa, it is always an emotion to land on this continent full of charm and adventure.
Let's go for the special, and it is important to become familiar with the bike in the first stages. It's a very technical special in the mountains, i'm not fit and i get so tired, I certainly still wear the effect of antimalaria mixed with tension. I don't start too well because both trips fail, i find out it's the magnet attachment on the wheel. Not so bad so much there was no navigation. Half special I'm without rear brake. Probably not yet used to the bike, I kept my foot too resting on the pedal and saw the repetition of many curves the oil came into boiling.
This is my first experience with GPS. Apart from the need to understand it well, by security, tells you the right direction and it's very reassuring. Without the anxiety that assaults you when you're not sure about the right breakup, (before they told you the tracks of the other pilots). But I immediately regret, following the tracks obviously straight for the waypoint, everyone follows the direct route, but i'm in the middle of a climb worthy of a world trial. I always wondered where those tracks were going.
GPS gives you the direction, but using it on the street and one thing, using it in the desert takes you in directions that lead you to encounter extreme difficulties. There are still tracks marked by other motorcycles, but this time I decide to go back and follow the roadbook literally. Beautiful old navigation methods are a safety, following the directions I find a beautiful and easy track. Unfortunately in the evening checking the ranking I realize that I am way behind and with many drivers in front of me very slow pleasure. Mannaggia to me that I followed the road book. Learning to use this infernal GPS many drivers had navigation facilities by overshooting me in the rankings. I'm starting to curse these new devilry a little bit..
The next day I leave for the stage. I feel good, shooting a lot and everything goes well, i'm going to remount many positions.
At some point the track has a bottleneck, tightens, slows down slightly, i reach another driver but there's a lot of dust and there's no way to get over it. I've been after him for a long time., but I get spaced and risk it all for everything, i want to pass it at all costs, but some dust i'll take a big peterne. At times I coat but I stand by miracle, i get ants on my feet for fright. I stop to check the damage, i see that the front rim is all branded and crooked. I give a pull to the rays and with the tail between the legs I finish the special flat plane. I arrive at the bivouac and only here remind me that the stage was "marathon" that is without assistance. I can't replace the rim and I'm forced to leave the next day in the same condition I arrived in.
You enter Mauritania, i knew those leads, I had already traveled them in previous editions, but due to the unrest in the area because of the belisarius front you run in a kind of corridor transened by balize, where the organization has strongly recommended not to go out so as not to run the risk of entering a minefield.
At the edge of the track are many UN pickup trucks.
The stage is very long and demanding with many difficult dunes, the sun starts to fall. I've done several stops at night in the past and I'm terrified of it., shot as much as I can, at some point the GPS loses the signal, I follow the tracks as long as I can and then I just follow the same direction. What anxiety. I continuously curse GPS, that finally picks up the signal and signals me that they're alone 3 km to go.
The next morning I have a hard stage ahead of me. You have to cross an erg of dunes very long, i get insabbio several times and I consume a lot of gasoline. I do two calculations, and the results tell me I'll never get to the end. I go slowly not to consume and luckily the track becomes smoother and I arrive with a drop only of gasoline in the tank. The race is starting to get really tough. I'm leaving for a very difficult stage, practically a huge floor of big stones that put me to the test. I get very tired, you can never proceed sitting down to rest your legs. I proceed standing on the bike, i'm so tired that sometimes i sit going to step duomo, arrival in the dark.
The next day the stage planned to travel the track in the opposite direction of the previous day. The traces are still evident and without any problem of navigation shooting like crazy, i reach several pilots. Everything was fabulous, i was really put well in the rankings, a single minor drawback comes from gps marking the route slightly to the left. Taken by the wetting and comforted by the fact that several other pilots were proceeding in that direction, you go on. What a beginner's mistake. We notice after several kilometers that by not following the GPS we had moved away from the track. So let's go back to Zouerat. There are seven of us, let's take stock, the track forked to V, and we followed in the footsteps of the previous day. One decides to cut straight, follow him in four, me and another we decide to go back, I don't trust GPS. No more. Let's go back to the famous crossroads, we realize that with the more miles made we would never get to the refueling of gasoline.
But the machines arrive, and mannaggia to them if only one stopped. Finally two Japanese stop, we ask him about gasoline, but it's really hard to get it out of the tank and we waste a lot of time. I'm on the right track, how long did I waste, i'll start pulling as much as I can, knowing that every mile made more with light are hours less given in the dark. Traveling at night is really a bad thing you don't see anything, the track is ruined by the passage of the whole rally and it's very easy to fall. In addition, the dunes, already difficult by day, at night they don't forgive you and you got so many times not having the reference of the end of the dune. I am deeply angry with myself for such a stupid mistake.
I do several kilometers with Alberto Morelli maybe and there we know each other better by laying the foundations for a deep friendship and we will run together many future rallies. Of course the night comes, as a result I fall several times, luckily there are few dunes but lots of camel grass,(are mountains of hard sand with tufts of grass on them the you have to zigzag, me if you take one the flight is inevitable). I get to one and of course as a good law murphy finds out it's a marathon stage. I clean the filter and check the oil, i was dry, i'll borrow it and collapse in morpheus's arms.
For the record, the 5 motorcyclists who cut straight didn't arrive and retired all.
In the morning we start again, the bike starts in a cloud of smoke. The night before in the dark I had put too much oil, I'm going to take some off and leave. The path is really hard, soft sand alternating with large stony. You make the Pass of Nega (a hellish place, i'd already done it backwards uphill, a hellish slope and remained famous because the cars almost stopped all so steep). But downhill the music has changed.
In 30 km from the stage arrival i'll take a pretty strong hole, nothing special but i hear a metallic noise. Slow down to see what happened: no brake. I stop and look better, I see the oil pipe cut out of the net and the swingarm on the right has detached sharply from the attachment turning backwards.
Floor of departure and arrival.
Charles Edson my friend and companion of many adventures welcomes me on arrival, i was desperate for my swingarm. We decide to go to the neighboring country to see if by chance there was a mechanic. Let's find a "saldor" as they call them around there. This immediately takes the torch, The Block! It's aluminum, you can't weld it like that! Bruno tries to get in his way, sees a chair and realizes that the legs are perfect to solve the problem, fit perfectly inside the swingarm, having rectangular shape and we stick them in and then we go back to the bivouac. All night we wait for the service trucks, it absolutely takes the a tig welding machine for aluminum.
Here comes the truck Honda France, they have the tig but the proverbial transalpine sympathy never denies, despite our insistence they do not lend us the welding machine. At three in the morning the Yamaha arrives and they are kind and promise me that they will help us. But I was very tired and I'm going to sleep, Bruno reassures me he will take care of the repair. Actually in the morning I find the swingarm welded and with an aluminum handkerchief closing the broken part.
Greeting Bruno, that was airborne, childbirth and at a pace of confidence i arrive in kaies.
This was also a Marathon stage so motorcycles take you to the closed park and it is forbidden to touch them. As I go to get my passport stamped because we entered Mali, i see pass a truck and i see that on has a green bike. I look at it better and it's a KLR like mine! I get the idea of changing the swingarm, I disassemble it all happy knowing that maybe so I could finish the race, and I'm getting ready for replacement, but i get caught right away. Commissioners misdeed me, I decide to eat a little in the dark and wait for them to walk away to try again later.
I am not a good mechanic but with patience and logic you do everything, it just takes me a long time to get things done. Also because in the dark and very difficult and you don't see anything, but of course I couldn't turn on the pile otherwise the commissioners would have found me. I can mount it, I was very tired but I can't mount the brake caliper and I realize it was different and there were different attacks. Back to the retired bike and I also take the pliers, all by taking a very long ride so i don't show up. I can mount it just to mount the wheel, it's up to the perno and I find that he too was different from my. I notice that my bike was from the previous year, while that retreat was from the last year and who knows why Kawasaki had changed so many particulars. I was very tired and I probably had a nervous breakdown., i started crying like a baby.
i'm discovered by the commissioner and probably seeing me in those conditions he felt sorry for me, and getting hold of it helped me finish the job that I wouldn't be able to finish anymore. The first light of dawn begins to be seen. As soon as I finished I hugged him and kissed him to show him my gratitude. A quick breakfast and we start again, tired but happy to be on my perfect bike as new.
(Nb: in Dakar I then reconstituted the piece with my broken, I discovered that the retired bike was of an Italian and now the Kawasaki is in my garage among the bikes I care about the most and inside the swingarm there are always the legs of the chair.
I had already made this special and I remembered it as a very long and very difficult stage. The landscape has changed and we run through a forest, after so much sand it's nice to see some greenery. You see animals, many monkeys. You also have to wade through a very deep stream, Auriol helps me and pushes the bike that had turned off. Along the riverbank there was a hecatomb of motorcycles, all with problems, weasted filters, water-filled mings. For once I'm lucky on my side, the kawa starts again almost immediately, after drying the filter.
You cross many villages, people you see at the edges, they all smile, express joy at seeing you. What a contrast to the big city, here we are practically armored in the field. The next day I leave for a mountain stage, the accumulated tiredness was so much, but you start to smell a certain scent of arrival. Arrive at a fesh fesh point (borotalco sand that you don't see the soil). Fall. The track was narrow, a car comes along, was definitely at the top of the leaderboard (but in the hustle and bustle I can identify her). He stops and starts playing like a lunatic, for me to free the passage. I try to do it as fast as I can, but I was really tired, very tired. Up the bike, that doesn't start, and out of care I push it to the side.
The Driver of the Car, spaced pushes me and throws me to the ground at the side of the road. His luck was that he managed to pass quickly. I was so angry That I told him so many of those swear words and curses that I was ashamed. In the fall broke the lighthouse and the water tank of the recovery radiator. Struggling to get back on track at a very steep spot. That pilot was lucky, because if I recognized him at the bivouac I don't know what I would have done.
On the last day there are two specials to go through and a lot of tension. The goal is to get there. The bike is at a state of exhausting, can't take it anymore. The last stage which leads to pink Lake there is a sand chestnut, and hearing the agonizing motor scream my heart. Anxiety rises. I have in mind poor Angel Cavandoli who broke his bike at 3 km to go.
The arrival is a liberation! Arrived! It was becoming an obsession, Compete 20 days with this unique purpose fills with joy but at the same time there is also an inner emptiness. For me, the Dakar post is a situation to metabolize. You have to recover a deadly fatigue that remains for some time, but I also get a little bit of existential crisis. The Dakar da. The Dakar takes away. All the time.
This Dakar 1996 it's a prize, gave me so much and took so much, without Team Assomoto and Bruno Birbes I would never have made it. I also met a wonderful person, thank you Alberto.
Source photos and texts: Aldo Winkler's facebook page