My Dakar 2000 by Francesco Tarricone

After the unfortunate, but partly predictable, my pick in ' 99, I researched for plan participation in Dakar for the new Millennium!French organizers set a path out of the ordinary, from Dakar to Cairo, then through Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya and Egypt.

On paper a very interesting path: from 6 at 23 January, 10.863 km of which 7.616 of special stages, touching some mythical places that have made this race, as the desert of Tenere, Agadez, Dirkou, Niamey …
The arrival, expected at the foot of the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx, It would have been the icing on the cake!
After what happened the year before I have to, in spite of myself, buy a new bike. I remain faithful to Honda XR400 for the same reasons that I preferred the previous purchase, namely simplicity, mechanical reliability and excellent accessibility. Also in this edition, as in all subsequent, I will have to do without the mechanic in tow to save on the budget.

For the preparation of the bike I choose a more refined compared to the previous year, 3 aluminium tanks made by the specialist Robert Vallejo of VRP, supplemented by a sump guard of the same material which incorporates a tool box and the small emergency water tank.
I will accompany in this adventure mates Moto Club George Pope, with a bike prepared as my, and Alexander B with a Suzuki DR350. You also add Maximum Bubix Chinaglia, He also with DR350 and Julius Vallabhaneni on Yamaha WR400.
I have good memories of this edition, because we have formed a tight-knit group where, at the bivouac you went together, helping each other.
The 27 and 28 December in Paris scrutineering and the symbolic departure from the podium set up on the Champ de Mars with a parade through the city. You can then load the bikes on vans and headed for the port of Le Havre, where all means of the caravan are taken care of by the organizers and boarded a ship that will take them in Dakar.

The 3 and 4 January administrative checks in the capital of Senegal, the 6 withdrawal of motion at the port, General briefing and we're ready to go!

At the dawn of the 6, from Place de la Republic, We leave one by one in reverse order, namely from highest to lowest number. I have the 108, When it's my turn to the Sun rose and the audience isn't sure what the big events!
I'm here for a race in the desert, not for a mundane parade … so it's fine!
The first 200 km are on paved roads where you have to pay close attention to local traffic; as you can imagine on the street has it all and chaos reigns supreme.

The first stage is to 284 km, mainly sandy tracks, with much vegetation and numerous crossings of villages.

In the evening it is clear to me that the pitfall for the first week will be the dust, and that dust! In fact, until the entry into Niger, the route runs in sub Saharan Africa, made of laterite tracks (the red clay tennis courts) surrounded by vegetation and trees that, with their fronds, prevent the dust raised by racing vehicles to thin out. I, used to the foggy Po Valley, While very carefully, I'm leaving shipped without getting into trouble.

My imperative for this edition you get to the end, regardless of my position and that of friends/opponents.
I also realized that I have to listen to my body and if necessary stop for a break, When I hear come less energy.
With this race strategy arrival in Niamey, then after 6 days, without even having made a small slip. The bike is just like how you match, not a scratch!
At night it is exposed on the Board a statement of the organizers, saying that the French secret services have reason to believe that a large group of terrorists/Marauders, well-armed and equipped, is waiting for the passage of the race in the desert expanses of Niger, striking action.

For this reason the rally is momentarily suspended, pending developments.
Something like this had never happened, We are stunned disbelief. We perform routine pilot anyway without assistance, which consists, upon arrival at the bivouac, in seeking the two cargo planes of the Elf.
These are responsible for transporting from one stage to another a steel case and two complete wheels, all that is allowed to have included in the enrollment.
Once you have your crate (and it's not always easy to find among the more than one hundred present), mounting the tent, you take off your clothes and put them to dry race.

As you can imagine the space inside the case is limited, Whereas it must contain tent, sleeping bag, mat and a complete set of clothes to wear at the bivouac. To these must be added the tools for maintenance of the bike and spare parts that you can insert.
I had a wooden box that was originally part of a furniture Ikea, reinforced with aluminum plates. Inside I put the spare parts and, If necessary, the tape could do to lift the bike.

But back to the issue 2000.
The following day the stop we organize ourselves to do scheduled maintenance for the day of rest, then oil change, washing and preparation of air filters that will be used for the second part of the race, replacement tires.
This service actually is done for free by Euromaster, you just need to have their full wheel and new tyre.
In the evening we are told it will be arranged an airlift that will transfer all the means of the caravan from Niamey to Sabha, in Libya, from where the race will resume.

Now try to imagine what it's like to carry more than 1000 km a hundred motorcycles, as many cars, but most of all more than a hundred trucks and even 7 or 8 helicopters!

Will take care of everything two giant Antonov 124-100 and I assure you that was a sight to see them take off at full load.
The airlift will take several days and eventually stop will 5 days. Many, and sufficient to retrieve all energies and to call into efficiency vehicles; so the reboot would have restarted all over again.
After two or three days of forced camp on the edge of the airport runway, We note that there are fewer and fewer competitors camped like us. But where is everybody? In hotel, the chiselers!

In short we join them and we're moving to a large city centre hotel.
The saying “who later gets bad houses”, in this case is not true; We can accommodate us all five in a large suite on the top floor. Not bad for the Dakar! 🙂
The following day, Since the load of means and materials on airplanes is handled by the organizers, We would like an excursion in pirogue on the Niger River. A show! We can see the hippos in their natural environment and to visit a village of huts.
But the free ride is almost over; the next morning we embark everyone on a 737 destination Libya, where we face far less pleasant temperatures
But before boarding the plane, an episode of those that happen only in Africa: for some strange reason the aircraft is parked off the track, an area of land; the crew lets us know that there cannot enter the engines, Why ask us to literally push the plane to bring it back on track! Robe crazy …

The stops in Libya and Egypt were relatively simple, in the sense that they were sliding is long but, then you could travel at moderate speeds.
On the other hand the places and landscapes that we met were gorgeous: stretches of hundreds of km in piste, ascent of the volcano Wan Namous bases with control stamp right on top, Majestic dunes!
The only problem, the cold. In fact approaching closer and closer to Cairo, and then pointing to the Northeast, the temperature was gradually descending, especially in the morning.

We peons, not being able to count on support vehicles, We couldn't afford to have the following technical leaders.
Then in the evening, before you lock us in the tents, wandering the camp looking for materials such as cardboard, plastic sheeting or anything like that, in order to build the makeshift handguard (like those you see on scooters in winter), We could save your hands from freezing!
The strategy was to make the transfer toward the special stage, always on asphalt and often long, with cars built; then remove the chain from the bike and abandon them at the control point at the beginning of special. Obviously they were not transportable, and then the next night you had to do it all again

Entered Egypt managing meals came under the control of a local company, While usually this task is performed by a French group that brings everything from Europe, with the exception of bread and water.

My digestive system manifested for all his disappointment for this takeover, making life difficult for a couple of days. Stopping also 5 or 6 times in special, prey to sudden bouts of dysentery, It's not something just nice …
Little anecdote: that day Nani Roma, in the lead up to the day before, started several positions after me having broken the engine the day before.
I, crouched at the side of the bike in a huge Esplanade without any obstruction or asperity, intent to cope with one of the aforementioned attacks, I feel to get in the distance a motorcycle completely gas wide open.
Of course it was Nani. He sees me, stops and does: “TODO bien?”
I watch it: “not so much, anyway thanks for stopping by!”
A large!!! 🙂

Anyway, Apart from these problems altogether not serious, my race runs off without trouble; In short I am on the Esplanade of Giza stages of coming together with friends with whom I shared the latest 3 weeks. Amazingly we arrived all in the end, even with Bubix off the charts for endless trouble his motorcycle.
Definitely the edition of 2000 is not remembered as one of the hardest Dakar, especially when stopping 5 days, but getting on the podium and see themselves deliver the medal reserved for "finisher" is an emotion really hard to describe.
Of the approximately 210 bikers parties, 107 reach Cairo, I am 59° 15 ' penalty because of the loss of the roadmap in a stage. I also finished in third place in the Marathon category up to 400 CC., that is, the category reserved for those who, during the race, does not replace vital parts of the bike, What engine, suspensions, etc ...

Even in the second half of the race seem to keep zero record falls; the bike will return to Italy pretty much perfect, Mission accomplished!!!

The Group of five remains compact even during the two days that we need to organise the return home; In fact, for luck, We hadn't purchased the return airfare. So we make knowledge with traffic really amazing in the Egyptian capital, where the rule is: addressing intersections and roundabouts as if there were no tomorrow!
Basically you honk and you throw in, hoping for good fortune ...
Amazingly even those driving the most vulnerable, as for motorcycles and mopeds, adopts the same riding style and even more amazingly almost always it's okay!

The evening variant requires the use of headlights in place of the Horn--a chaos ...
The biggest risk since the departure of Dakar I'm running, along with my four companions, in a taxi to the airport: It is evening, to accompany travellers to the departures area cab drivers have to pay a toll, with the toll highway; our driver, rather than pay, you invent the maneuver of the century, turns off the lights and slips down into the lane intended for those who leave the departure area!!!

Text and photographs by Francis Tabai



My Dakar 1999 by Francesco Tarricone

January 1999, from Granada to Dakar. I can't believe I'm take sides at the start of the race that I discovered and began to follow in the mid-' 80, those peak, Orioli and Dalia. I started with cross country about 10 years before, and attending the legendary Motorcycle Club Oggiono, I know a few friends who have already participated.
In a short time I decided to try it myself; in spring I take part in the Rally of Sardinia and, for just, I don't win the category bikes (B2).I'm busy looking for funders and, incredibly, I find the money to cover the budget for me and an airborne mechanic.

In those years it was possible to embark on planes of the Organization a mechanic; This was being transferred from one camp to another, and it was a relatively inexpensive way to have an assistance. The choice fell on the man, mechanic and pilot Max Tan.For the bike really went for a Honda XR 400, simple, robust and economical. Acerbis fuel tank, 2 plastic side tanks bought used, engine guard with water reservoir and tool holder, ad hoc calibrated suspension and the bike was nice it ready.

The first stages spun smooth away… all too, in fact I have no memories of those days. Nay, one thing I remember. In the morning, After breakfast, is delivered to each driver a bag containing the ration of food to get to night. Inside there are energy foods like candy bars, condensed milk, fruit juice, cheese and more. The ration is the same, regardless of whether you are on a motorcycle, car or truck. Evidently some of these foods are not very compatible to stress that a pilot bike bears during a layover; reason why it would be better not to infilarsele in jacket pockets. The fourth day I carelessly PEAR mousse in your back pocket, the arrival of stage I notice of disaster. The inside of the Pocket is completely covered in a sticky compound using pears and dust!Step over an hour in the bathroom of the Tan Tan airport to remove the molasses!
But the worst was yet to come …

Stage 6, from Bir Mogrein to Atar, Mauritania, 629 km of which 624 special test is the first stage of the desert, the real one! Mass start, It seems to me 50 pilots in each row, I'm in the second row. I keep a good rhythm for the first kilometers, then suddenly coming up fast on a stretch of sandy bumps, type whoops, I don't have time to get up on the platforms that I find myself in the air!

Touch the ground, bounce and do I have time to think: now I get hurt!
Luckily they are only a little’ bruised, but nothing broken.

The bike doesn't go so well, one of two trip master breaks and all the tools block folds. Allotment. After a while’ I stand behind other drivers who, such a note, take a wrong direction IMHO. I am convinced of being right and I go on my own way. Who do you think was right? … Of course the other! ☺ In a short time I find myself all alone, without a trace on the ground, in an area of flat sand with small bumps seams. I would have to go back, but you want to look for inexperience and doesn't waste any time, I bet the next waypoint straight to straight … too bad it's in 90 km!
The backcountry alone worn me mentally, When I refer to the race track I'm exhausted, and we're only halfway stage …I find myself with two fellow motorcycle club, George Pope and Alexander B, I decide to go after them; Unfortunately my body disagrees, between cover-ups and small falls I run out completely and I can't travel at their own pace. In hindsight it is easy to say that I would have had to stop for a few minutes, eat some candy bar and recharge your batteries. I didn't, and at sunset, I found myself faced with the last 20 km of dunes that preceded a nice track beat that in about sixty kilometers wore upon arrival.

The clutch, by now tired of my abuse, He decided that he had had enough and I planted in the lurch!At that point a experienced already acknowledges that that stage has gone bad, but that's a long race and anything can happen; you just bring the bike to the bivouac by the next morning, by any means. I, that experience I, I try to replace the clutch disks with poor quality tools that I have with me. I can't even remove the clutch cover!

I am so tired and not very shiny, that I can think of to stop the other competitors for help.

Ok, now they are among the last of motorcycle, but there are still plenty of cars and trucks that need to go from there. In a short time I find myself in the dark, with damp clothes from sweat and the temperature drops quickly; I don't even mind the night waiting for me!

Mentally I surrendered, I don't feel like doing anything, rest. Get an English guy, more tired than me, his bike works, He doesn't talk about it! He stopped at a hundred meters from me and decides to retire, not ready to continue in the dark alone. We wrap in our aluminum sheeting to try and retain body heat, relying on the arrival of the camion balai (literally fucks), whose task is to retrieve the “Veterans of the campaign of Africa”!In fact, after midnight, arrives. Unfortunately the “Veterans” by that stage there are many, There is no more room and tell us to wait until the following morning, When will pass a second means. We look forward to the Sun and its heat; It's cold!

Our expectations are granted … also too! During the day the temperature rises a lot, so much so that the same aluminum sheeting, used to fight the cold, are useful even to make shadow.
But it had to get the second truck fuck? In the morning, good now, We hear a helicopter, he lands near us, is the big dog Hubert Nasserl: tells us not to move out of there and wait the balai. Leaves and water and breaks down to locate other unfortunates like us; the stage the day before claimed many victims!

In the middle of the day arrives in a small plane, We turn on the heads, then launch an object bound to a small parachute: is a aluminum water bottle with a handwritten leaflet.

Says: the truck has a problem, don't move, vi recover later …But where we are, in a movie? ☺
Mid-afternoon end of little Odyssey, Here comes another helicopter that will charge us and leads us to Atar, Home of the end stop of the day before and the bike? Abandoned in the desert! We say they can't carry them with the helicopter and that the following day would pass a means to recover them. I'll never know if the elusive Middle passed or not; returning home, the organisers informed me that both bikes had been stolen. Worse than that couldn't finish!Only after numerous written requests, one fine day I called Monsieur Auriol in person, telling me that I would be granted a partial compensation for the loss of the vehicle.

My personal reflection, at the end of this first participation, is it would be better to join a minor rally, to acquire the minimum experience useful to avoid some coarse mistakes, inevitably, you are at the beginning. But the damage was already done, the experience gained, might as well start thinking about next: Dakar-Cairo 2000.

That year, among the bikes, He won the late Richard Sainct on BMW 650 Thumper, was the last year in motion by Edi Orioli. gps provided was still that little, so much so that it was possible to mount it on the side of the road- Book.
They were fitted with two riders side by side, on the triple clamp. Sentinel and Iritrack did not exist, the vehicle was positioned the “Balise”, a device that, Once activated, emitted a signal which allowed the satellite location. Once lit it was automatically out of the race, so it was better to think of it!The distress call had to be made only for health reasons or was achieved by means of the organization within the next day at the bus stop in the desert.

Text and photo Francis Tabai