Dakar is like a disease gets into your blood and you don't get rid of it anymore. The work had become very demanding and the time available was scarce. But the Dakar was changing, you could buy a motorcycle KTM ready for Africa, almost equal to the official ones, a dream! Beautiful! You could do the assistance kit where you can get what you need (paid). You could also buy and have your tires fitted with mousse!!! (Exaggerated! This, before, it was a drama). All these facilities could not help but make me feel tempted. With Alberto Morelli, now become super friends, let's make the decision. We sign up and bring the airborne mechanic Adriano Micozzi in common. The Dakar experience is one of a kind, you have to focus and just think about one thing, with a very strong intensity, living intensely nature and competitiveness! This total immersion in running makes you feel full of life and disappears all the existential anxieties that afflict us in everyday life. That's why I relapsed! Knowing that there would be many moments when I would curse the moment when I had decided to go back.
Departure from Paris, always a great emotion, the weather is bad, very ugly, Fog, Cold. Halfway through France they make us do a special. We are equipped to make 1.000 winter km, cado in the special. How hot so dressed and with the helmet wobbling! And after washing the bike away, you start again completely sweaty. In Narbonne there are shower and hotel, but a few hours of sleep. Micozzi arrives with the van with all our things.
Breakfast and transfer to the park closed. Before the special they have to give us the race table but there are many of us and it is difficult to listen to everyone. I'm late on the table because of the queue, I thought it was fast and smooth so I left the bike on, but when I go back the clutch doesn't come off. Worried, I do the special very slowly, and right after that there are the washes. Luckily they let us board the bikes in the van and I sleep behind under the bikes. We arrive in Granada at 2 in the morning.
Wake up at dawn, planned two specials: the first on a muddy fettucciato, the second very beautiful with beautiful landscapes to cheer the competitors. Then we embark. In the harbour the first scare. The bike, which was beautiful and super driveable and stable, had only one flaw: the start-up was on the left, and not only was I not used to, but having his left ankle blocked and sore, it was really hard to get it going. Because of this, my physical problem and the fact that in Austria they had, I don't know why I decided to make my life so difficult, fact is that the bike didn't want to know about starting anymore. I've spent well 20 minutes to get it back on track.
ER RACHIDA – OUARZAZADE
Difficult special with a lot of navigation. Several competitors in search of the “Cp”, I browse without tracks for GPS, I understand though that I'm Back, I've probably done less miles but slower. The bike is fantastic, being so stable you can go very strong. Refueling. That's nice, Give 15 minutes available, whereas before you queued in special and everyone fought to pass in front. Probably, in a very fast straight in waves, I find a sequence that bounces me by squeecing me forward. I remember seeing everything cracked like I had in front of a broken windshield. I'm totally “unsoched”, luckily comes Alberto who takes matters into his own hands. First thing I repair the visor of the helmet because whoever beats the head with marks on the helmet is made to withdraw d’ Ofﬁce. In fact, organization car passes, looks at us, sees that it's all ok and goes away. The bike is destroyed, I no longer had the cucolino and the rear frame was all bent, the crooked handlebar, and when I turn it on, the oil comes out of the oil radiator tube that is cut off. Alberto does the miracle: does a “by pass” and so it makes me start again. I've been behind him for a while, but I wasn't in me, in obvious shock. I see the dust of a’ car and I leave to handcuff it, Alberto can't keep up with me, so I lose it. Unfortunately, the car was lost, together we look for the right way and only then I realize that Alberto was no longer behind me! In the collision I lose my “Balise”, recovery and I keep it between my legs. I notice my nose is bleeding. I'll let the car go missing and I'll continue with the GPS, so I get to the end of the special. I find who gives me some motor oil to top up the leak. I do the transfer and I start to feel pain everywhere, knee and right thumb especially. On arrival I go directly to the infirmary. Hadrian sees the bike and puts his hands in his hair, goes to KTM and starts a long night. Spend 6.000.000 lire of spare parts.
OUARZAZADE – SMARA, New
A little’ hesitant allotment in the morning, I wouldn't have dared not to leave out of respect for Adriano who worked all night making me find a bike better than new, perfect as I had bought it! It starts very early, still in the dark for the transfer, with a crazy cold and then make us wait a lot at the start waiting for the dawn, because you only start with light. Cautious birth almost a type of tour guide, both because of the pain I was feeling, that for "the squeeze" taken. I break my mousse, mount the inner tube and arrive in Smara in the dark. Damn, I needed rest. I struggle to bend my knee, it's very swollen. My thumb hurts and I struggle to hold the knob, and even more annoying, my coccige hurts, pain that conditions me in driving. Even the jaw is all achilosed, I suffer so much.
ZOUERATE – EL MREITI
Very difficult stage, very slow with passes worthy of a trial race. Lots of difficult sand dunes. A truly exhausting stop. The beatings taken in the days before I hear them all. I'm in a lot of times. Refueling arrival, reach Quaglino stationary a few hundred meters before without gasoline. I'm about to come back to help him but I notice that I had opened a rear tank that was leaking profusely, and in the meantime someone had stopped to help him. Allotment, but now I'm going to handcuff without consuming gasoline. Are very tired. The terrible darkness is coming and I still have to do 60 km. Going in the dark is really hard and risky. Exhausted arrival, but in El Mreiti there is no assistance, no airborne. Disassembling the tank, kind gentlemen of a Dutch car help me, with a red-hot knife I melt the plastic of the tank and balance the crack that had opened. I sleep little and I'm all broken, now the pain is really strong. I cursed myself several times to be back running.
EL MREITI – TAOUDENNI
Another difficult stage, many dunes and very steep, luckily the sand is relatively hard. Even though I'm in "cruise-mode" now, I try to be regular without taking risks and especially not hurt me further. I did a large part of the stage without any attempt, I've passed many pilots, but at some point I slip into a sand hole and I get in the way. Damn! To get out of there I spent all my remaining energy taking a long time, more than 30 minutes to get back in the saddle. I'm back but not more polished, I couldn't go the way I used to. I notice that it loses the tank again, and breaks the oil seal. Gasoline and oil end up on me, I'm all stained and dirty. Arrival at the end, checking the oil and the scoop is inexorably dry! Combination, when something wrong happens, it's always when there's no Hadrian's assistance, I'm just kinda unlucky. I work many hours on the tank and shelter it permanently. Meanwhile, robbers rob a truck near me and shoot some competitors, I personally saw cars with bullet holes.
TAOUDENNI – Gao
I start with the broken oil seal. I find who gives me 2 kg. oil and I take them with me. Thankfully they cancel the stage for the stage episode (usually the stage before the day off is nice tough) let's leave without time, all together. Aid Salvador who had turned upsideth I find him unconscious, but he recovers, gets up and starts again. To “Pc”, checking the oil and refilling, but I finish it too soon. They're still missing 400 km!! GPS gives you confidence even if I hate to put all those numbers to program it, I follow him, heedless to follow the tracks. At some point it loses its signal, I turn it off, I'm turning it back on, nothing!! I decide to go in the same direction, I get anxious and after quite a while now desperate to get lost, I find the tracks and I take a big breath of relief.
At the gas station I get given more oil and refreshed, starting up doing the last 100 km.al Dark. I'm so tired, All dirt of oil and I do the last 112 km of transfer. Gao seems to me a place of robbers, people have aggressive attitudes. We sleep in a fetid hotel and it's scary just going out. They steal my balise and the irons of the bike (for the irons I almost cry, I had chosen them with great care and they are fundamental to stay in the race). In the infirmary, my knee and thumb are looking at me, they're going to welcome me, luckily I had nothing to the ligaments but I had fluid pouring, I was very cold the first two hours in the morning before they got hot. The evil to the jaw had passed almost entirely (home at the dentist they'll take me off 2 teeth that had cracked, while the most annoying thing was the pain in the coccige. In any case never as in this Dakar I enjoyed the day off. Adriano has struggled a lot, since the KTM spare parts truck had not arrived, but thanks to Roberto Boasso, official KTM mechanic, solved the problem of sealing.
Gao – TOMBOUCTU, NEW
Beautiful stage, the first one I really enjoy driving it. I only run a risk taking a pampa because I was going really strong. Early arrival, everything ok. To my surprise, I see that the KTM service trucks are also coming.
TOMBOUCTU, NEW – Nema
We were told that the stage was easy, instead they're all very slow, meeting so much camel grass, Gait is very slow, I'll have made the most of the third. Arrival with light, but at sunset.
Nema – TIDJIKJA
They say it's the hardest stage of the race, And it's true! I've done it in previous editions, but in two days. It's very slow, with the typical landscape of Mauritania (soft sand with many stones). I'm always alone. At the famous elephant pass you have to get off a plateau between huge rocks, it seems to be in a Ligurian mule. I fall several times. At the second gas station, it is already five o'clock and still missing 250 km. I had gone too slowly to spare my strength. Taken by the fear of the dark, I'm going to handcuff to make less way in the dark. I think that was the moment when I went strongest in the whole rally. At 18,30 it's dark and 150km away!! And’ terrible go in the dark, you don't see the height of the dunes and without reference it's not easy to pass them. Falls and cover-ups not to end. Arrival at the special end at 23,30 just in time not to take the lump. I'm exhausted. Since the arrival of the special bivouian I still have a’ now. After the tension of the special, I fall every 100 meters more I get 60 and more I can't find the bivou ac. Another day without assistance, control alone the whole bike, the air filter, I top up the oil and put it too. My knee hurts a lot again and I sleep badly.
TIDJIKJA – Atar
It's only a few kilometers, but all of stone to overcome in the first gear. Sometimes I even have to push the bike on foot. I find Hall Desperate, tells me that you have to withdraw, knows that the KTM truck does not pass, has already checked the whole bike and is sure that it is the rotor/fly that has abandoned it. I tell him: “what problem c is?” I look through my things and give him my spare rotor. And he asks me how the hell I'm ever wearing a rotor/fly with me? Actually, I had a little bit of everything, memoir of the old Dakars. Towards the end of the stage, I get 100, GPS doesn't work, doesn't take, I follow tracks that end up. Traffic on THE GPS and finally start to pick up the signal again, I do the last 80 km in the middle of trucks, everything to GPS. I arrive and I'm so tired, obviously there's no assistance. I have to change the tires. On the hard they ended up. I see the “camion balai” and I steal the front mousse from a retired bike. I also remedy a full rear wheel, used but with good mousse, who lend me by making me promise to give it back the next day. Also because I wouldn't have had the strength to change the rear tyre after disassembling and mounting the front mousse.
Atar – BOUTILIMIT
This is probably going to be the last hard special in this Dakar. 1998, at least I hoped for it. Let's start with Atar, there are beautiful trucks, it's a very stony area. It is understood that guidance will be very important. Surely it will be the most beautiful special from a landscape point of view. Dunes and crazy scenarios!! I travel the whole stage with Quaglino. You cover up, we go the wrong way, let's go back and find the right track, it was a footpath, indeed a very ugly uphill mule, I think it was impossible for cars and even worse trucks to pass by there. Climb the plateau, we're in a sandstorm, do not see anything, and the road book says to follow different mountains, with spike drawings to be circumvented as a reference. The only one is to rely on GPS. We are a group of 6/ 7 bike and we slip into a very ugly erg of dunes with soft sand. It seems impossible to me that we should do more 80 km in those conditions. We see cars from afar and chase them. Hall does not follow us and will be lost. Stop the special refueling due to the weather conditions. We still have to make a long transfer of which 100 difficult km. We arrive in the dark. I'm going to fix the bike. (other day without assistance) and filling up for the next day, I see that the tank still loses! Luckily I find the KTM truck and secretly (it was forbidden to provide assistance because it was a "marathon" stage, give my tank in exchange for a new one. I try to mount it but it doesn't square with the frame. I don't know how to do it, at the end I get fed up and tie it with straps and ties. I find accommodation in a Tuareg tent but when I notice that as night companions I have scorpions, I can get very little sleep.
BOUTILIMIT -SAINT LOUIS
The first special of the day is beautiful and sinuous. I had Quaglino in front of me in the rankings of 10 minutes, The goal was to take them back. I'll take it, I pass him and shoot like crazy, everything is fine but in the end I mistake and I lose 2/3 minutes but I always get in front of him. Second special, I have to start with my schedule but the bike does not start, they're in a frenzy, Lose 3/4 minutes, finally I give birth and after a few km I sned in a climb among the vegetation almost reached the sea. The bike no longer starts again I lose others 5 minutes, I feel that I'm in a hurry and unpolished. Luckily the special is easy along the beach. Shooting Quaglino, I pass him and give him 2 minutes. Too bad without all these problems I probably would have surpassed him in the rankings.
ST. LOUIS – DAKAR
Pink Lake Special: now the left hand is unusable, I have the carpal tunnel that makes me very bad. Even in the dakars I have suffered from this problem, especially on the right hand.. In the early hours I had to go slowly and then slowly passed me, but those who had passed me no longer wanted to get over it so as not to take the dust again. I had surgery on the right but on the left I have the problem. In any case I stand in front of Quaglino in the PS. even if it's not enough to get past it in the general. This was the most difficult Dakar I've ever run. What a satisfaction to bring it to the end! Instead of being euphoric I feel melancholy, probably because I feel that this happiness I feel, so intense, I won't try it anymore because I understand that this will be my last Dakar.
Ndr: Aldo Winkler will finish the Dakar 1998 30th place on 55 riders at the finish line, fifth Italian at the finish line.