Their Dakar and other people's Dakar
January 17 th 2020 - 05:56 [GMT + 3]
Philippe Raud and Patrice Saint-Marc, racing in the Dakar as Sodicar's rapid support crew, do their fair share of good deeds every day as they strive to reach the finish as soon as possible. Their very own challenge.
Marathon stages tend to have the fewest mechanicals. Philippe Raud is adamant about it. "The guys take better care of their machines because they want to make it to the finish", asserts the man at the wheel of Toyota no. 387, which —although part of the race— is there to support the seven cars fielded by the Sodicar team. "My challenge is all about helping others to the best of my ability. We are racing our Dakar and other people's Dakar. We are the rapid reaction force that gets there before the support truck. If you count all the tools and parts we're carrying —gimbals, clutch, belts, starters, hubs and so on—, we come in at 3.4 tonnes, when a race car only weights 1.9 tonnes. I love dunes, but today was tricky. We did 370 km with 800 grams in each tyre. It's great that we managed to finish before nightfall. After dark, you can no longer stray from the track, which is like a battlefield when you come after the rest of the field. We had to bring out the plates and shovel a bit, but we only lost 45 minutes." It was a good stage for one of the few competitors who have taken part in the Dakar on all three continents. "I started on Place de l'Étoile in 2001. I've loved every edition because I'm a die-hard fan, and this year I was over the moon at the prospect of discovering a new setting." Philippe Raud and co-driver Patrice Saint-Marc wrapped up the special that capped the final marathon stage of the rally exhausted but proud to have accomplished their mission. "Our car is 20 years old and is competing in its fourth Dakar, so we're really careful. The terrain was very rugged in the first week, with plenty of rocks, but we've only had two punctures since the start. I'm impressed by how sturdy our gear is." After finishing the penultimate stage of the rally, Philippe and Patrice took the time to add two kilos of pressure to each tyre. "We've still got a 300 km link route to go", points out Philippe. "For me, it's the most dangerous part because we're driving fast, tired and, often, less focused. This is where we really need to watch out." It is for this very reason that they take turns driving until they get to the bivouac.