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Stage 8 - Sunday 10 January 2010 | Antofagasta > Copiapo

  • Connection  96 km
  • Special 472 km


A very live Dakar

Whilst many TV programmes about the Dakar are filmed live from the bivouac to launch the stage summaries or to interview the main players in the rally a while after their feats on the tracks, this year France Televisions has set up a live broadcast from the finishing line of the special stages, with a camera on board a helicopter and on-the-spot reactions.

“On air in two minutes!” The television crew set up on the finishing line of the special stage adjusts their final settings. The feed from the bivouac in Copiapo, 72 km away, is working well. The images sent via the crew at the finishing line are received without problems by the production team. This year, France Televisions has pulled out all the stops by launching, for the very first time on the Dakar, real live coverage of the race. “A while ago, the TV channel ‘La Cinq’ set up a ‘false’ live show with images of the Dakar filmed from a helicopter,” states Florent Houzot, deputy director of the sports department, who is supervising France Televisions live project on the rally. “After the cancellation of the Dakar 2008, going to South America gave the Dakar a needed new lease of life and enabled us to produce this live broadcast”.

The set-up is as follows: one team at the bivouac to start the programme on France 4 with Gerard Holtz as the show presenter, a journalist, Jean-François Kerkaert, in the helicopter flying above the car competitors heading towards the finishing line, and finally a first-class consultant, Luc Alphand, waiting at the stage’s end, ready to welcome and interview the best drivers and riders. “The difficult part is that we have to adapt to the timing. We depend a bit on when the cars finish. During the stage at Copiapo, we were fortunate with the arrival just in time by Robby Gordon, who scored the best time by one second”. There are obviously technical difficulties also. Apart from the production facilities at the bivouac that allow the director to move from on contributor to another, Jean-François Kerkaert has to operate by himself the switch between the camera filming him in the helicopter and the camera outside filming the race. “What’s more there is no playback of what is broadcast, so you have to obey the instructions you receive in your earpiece, which requires real discipline,” insists Houzot.

All this produces spectacular images, like the infernal descent by Carlos Sainz over the 2.5 kilometres toward the finishing line in Iquique. “It’s absolutely brilliant,” admits Lionel Wetzer, director of the programme called ‘Le Dakar’, “During the 52 minutes of the programme, it’s nothing but a real pleasure for me”. The result is more than satisfactory. “Even if viewers aren’t yet used to turning on France 4 to follow the Dakar, we’re being watched by three times for viewers than usual for this time bracket”. According to the deputy director of the sports department, this successful experience could bring about others. “After all, sport is all about live coverage, so why shouldn’t we have even more images live from the race in future editions?”