From 1 to 3 December, the Port of Marseille hosted a great deal of race, support, media and organisation vehicles, whose first adventure awaits in the shape of a sea voyage to Jeddah, where the Dakar rally will start on 3 January.
The Dakar organisation teams and the dockers in Marseille handled 75 cars, 42 trucks, 110 motorbikes and quads on the start list of the race, along with other vehicles, totalling 679 vehicles plus 8 helicopters and 15 containers.
The wide-ranging restrictions on movement in Europe and overseas forced the Dakar teams to engage in logistical acrobatics. Relieved to make it to the unloading bay and see the rally take shape before their eyes, the competitors already had a bunch of totally not embellished stories to share!
The Port of Marseille felt a bit like the finish of a special this week, especially in the Med-Europe terminal, which handled most of the vehicles that are scheduled to take part in the Dakar and will soon set off for Jeddah nestled in the bowels of the Garnet Leader. In the age of COVID-19, bringing together convoys from 19 countries is quite the administrative feat! Although most competitors wisely decided to stay home, their team members had to put their navigational skills to work to make it to Provence with the visas, PCR tests and circulation permits for high-level athletes that enabled them to drive on French roads. In light of the fact that the measures taken to fight COVID-19 vary from country to country in Europe and overseas, the Dakar services provided them with a very special kind of roadbook to make sure they reached a safe haven. Anticipation and caution paid off. No-one beat India’s Ashish Raorane in this regard, as he travelled from Mumbai to Europe a month ago to avoid any quarantine-related problems. The Belarusian Team Pitlane were also proved right in their decision to allow ample time, as they were denied entry at the Polish border and had to enter the Schengen Area via Lithuania… which did not stop them from reaching Marseille on time, but added a few kilometres to their counter.
Kamaz are not afraid of an extra kilometre or two, or even a thousand. Their race and support trucks have already covered almost 5,000 km from Tatarstan, with team boss Vladimir Chagin leading the convoy and eager to share a few anecdotes after reaching Marseille: “This will be the 43rd edition, and 43 has always been one of my lucky numbers. We managed to put three trucks on the podium at the end of the Dakar in the year I turned 43. This will be our 30th participation. I hope we can match that performance.” Once in Saudi Arabia, the “Tsar” will be able to keep up the tradition, for example, when he celebrates his birthday on 5 January, an occasion which he has often marked with a stage win. Only a fool would bet against the blue trucks gifting Chagin a stellar performance for his 50th birthday…
· 30 and 31 December: vehicle retrieval at the Port of Jeddah
· 1 January and 2 January in the morning: administrative and technical scrutineering in Jeddah
· 2 January in the afternoon: prologue and podium
· 3 January: start of stage 1
· Rally held from 3 to 15 January
· 9 January: rest day in Ha’il
· 15 January: final stage and finish podium in Jeddah