Not so long ago, Jordi Viladoms and David Casteu were stars of the Dakar, even managing to finish in second place. This year, they came to the rally as the bosses of KTM and Sherco, respectively.
Jordi Viladoms and David Casteu are trying their hands at a new job this year. The two former riders hung their jumpsuits to become the bosses of the KTM and Sherco teams, respectively. What do they have to say about it? "It's exhausting", says the man from Nice. "I think I'm getting back on my bike next year", he adds jokingly. Jordi has also discovered the ever-present pressure. "This year I realised that the Dakar is hard for everyone and, perhaps, even more so for assistance crews. We're 40-odd people at KTM with our Husqvarna cousins. It's a lot of organisational work you need to manage and control." David agrees: "You've got to manage everything: mechanics, riders, mechanical problems... You need to constantly adapt to changes, improvise, dispatch the assistance trucks and vehicles at the right time... The stress never stops. Back when I used to race, I forgot about all this once I hopped onto my bike. I only thought about the race. It's completely different now..." Sam Sunderland's victory will make sure Viladoms never forgets this new experience. "The hardest part", continues the Catalan, "is to know the rule book inside out to avoid strategic mistakes. When you've got riders out there giving it their all and in the mix for the win, you can't let them down with a management mistake." Jordi can rest easy: Sunderland and Walkner have no reasons to complain.
327 - Mission accomplished
Toyota hired Christian Lavieille to win the T2 category and that's exactly what he did. The Frenchman and co-driver Jean-Pierre Garcin posted an impeccable performance.
An uneventful Dakar is quite a rare thing, but Christian Lavieille enjoyed one this year. Our only setback was breaking a wheel rim during an off-track section", points out the man at the wheel of Toyota no. 327. "Apart from this, the 9,000 km course was completely uneventful. We didn't even have to use the plates." Ten years after his World Cup victory, Lavieille won the T2 category, a category reserved for production vehicles but just as demanding as the prototype category. "We drive differently because our cars are heavier and less powerful, but it's just as hard", explains Christian. The Frenchman recognises the role of Jean-Pierre Garcin, who navigated the stages flawlessly, as well as the entire Toyota team. "The key to winning the Dakar is a reliable and well-prepared car", he stresses. This is exactly what the Lavieille-Garcin duo had in a quest which saw them finish 23rd overall.
117 - Better than expected
Toomas Triisa never thought he could even get a podium spot, but he ended up winning the malles-moto category. The Estonian capped it all with a 30th place in the general classification.
Toomas Triisa had a long face after stage 2 from Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucumán. 47th in that stage and 49th overall, the Estonian complained about the heat and an excessively fast course which had put him against the ropes. "It was even dangerous", he blurted out at the Argentinian bivouac. He did not know yet that Marc Coma had made the rest of the course even more exciting. Sand, off-track sections, navigation... All in all, lots of fun for amateur riders looking for adventures and a challenge. Toomas, who was taking part in the malles-moto category this year, quickly achieved cruise speed and gradually climbed up the general classification until he seized the lead in the category and never relinquished it. The Estonian rider succeeds the unlucky Jürgen van den Gorbergh. The Dutchman started the rally as the big favourite, but he was forced to withdraw before the race even got to Bolivia.
351 - Leandro Torres: everything for SSVs
After last year's dry run, Leandro Torres took a huge leap forward this year by winning the newly created SSV category.
Don't mind Leandro Torres's somewhat grumpy expression. The curvaceous Brazilian has just won the SSV category and it almost seemed inevitable considering how much work he put into it. Not a trace of triumphalism or exuberance in him. It's for a good reason! "We took part in the 2016 Dakar to run some tests. Understanding and seeing the behaviour of our machine, our bodies, our minds… We understood that the Dakar is a real adventure, something quite out of the ordinary. We analysed everything and came back this year with victory in our sights." It's mission accomplished for driver no. 251, who produced a rock-solid performance to beat Chinese Wang Fujiang by 4 h 42'34". He dominated the race throughout, with three stage wins and an iron grip on the lead from stage 5 all the way to the end in Río Cuarto. Much like Torres spent lots of time preparing his Dakar triumph, he has also spent years working for the SSV cause: "In my first race in Brazil, there were 4 of us. Two years later, there were already 33. I'm sure the same will happen at the Dakar."